In the 1970's, I (Annie Hebert) was playing in a tennis tournament in Beirut, Lebanon. My partner, Bobbi Madany, and I noticed a handsome African American man sitting in the lobby of the once beautiful Hotel Phoenicia Hotel.

My Encounter with Muhammad Ali

I said, "I think that is Muhammad Ali", and we got up our courage and introduced ourselves.

He asked why we were there and then he said, "you know if I played tennis, man, I would be the greatest!, I would win it all!" in that inimitable style of rhythmic speech he had.

I asked him if he ever wanted his children to box and his voice changed to a serious even tone of speech. He said, "No, I would never want my children to box ", in a rather sad manner.

He was there on a good will government trip to the Middle East . We were so impressed at how his face showed no sign of his fighting days and we noticed his gentle spirit as he spoke with children and families.

This was no big celebrity surrounded by beautiful women but a kind, lovely man representing the U.S. In an admirable manner.

It is an enduring memory for me of "the greatest" and his true love for encouraging children.

~Annie Hebert

1942 - 2016

Muhammad Ali was an American professional boxer, widely regarded as one of the greatest and most significant sporting figures in history. Ali passed away last Friday, June 3, 2016.