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    “I got a call from my boss that was like, ‘Right now, it looks like you’re gonna be in the motorcade, and for the time being keep it to yourself.’ So I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t tell my wife for at least a day. But it was a matter of realizing what that meant and the importance of it, because I knew there was only going to be one of me.

    “I felt a little bit of pressure getting into the back of the SUV because I was really there to do a job for everyone and I didn’t want to mess up. I was in what they call a pool situation, so any photos that I shot were going to be shared with anybody who wanted them. I think the Associated Press picked them up. And then I have no idea how far they were distributed after that. I found the photos in multiple outlets around the world. And that truly was humbling. Humbling to be asked to do it, to be relied upon to do it.

    “The very first time that I saw somebody walk out and touch the hearse I thought, oh, this is not gonna go well. And nothing happened. The next time that somebody came out I thought, OK, we’re probably OK. A few people reached out and kissed the hearse. What surprised me the most was how everybody was on their best behavior. You have that many people gathered at that many places waiting that long just to catch a glimpse or to wave a sign or to see the hearse go past that I thought, well, something will go wrong. At the end of it I remember exhaling and thinking: what a wonderful day in Louisville.

    “I think it had the elements of pride, respect, love, admiration and all of those feelings were in each flower that hit the windshield and each petal that was laid out at Cave Hill Cemetery. And every sign that they waved and every person who touched the hearse, that’s what they were infusing back into that car and back into Ali. What he gave to the city, the city gave back.

    “You can argue that Louisville’s day every year is the Kentucky Derby, the first Saturday in May. That’s a Louisville day, but this may truly be the most Louisville day ever.”

    Clevenger is a photographer with the Courier-Journal.


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    Mary Chellis Nelson's picture

    About Mary Chellis Nelson

    Mary Chellis Nelson is the managing editor of Louisville Magazine.

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