- “The Greatest” was a Louisville native
Muhammad Ali’s cocky demeanor and notorious trash-talking earned him the nickname “The Louisville Lip” (photo courtesy of the Dutch National Archives, The Hague)
Horses and bats set aside, the sport of boxing has Louisville to thank for “the Greatest,” Muhammad Ali.Born as Cassius Clay, Jr., a young Ali happened upon boxing after his bike was stolen. He reported the theft and his intent to “whup” the thief to Louisville police officer Joe Martin. Also an amateur boxing coach at the Columbia Gym, Martin told the boy he would need to learn to fight first. And learn he did. On to a gold medal in the 1960 Olympics in Rome, to a Heavyweight Champion of the World title in 1964, and to a self-proclaimed title as “the greatest” boxer of all time. Ask anyone in Louisville, they know it’s true.“I am the greatest. I said that even before I knew I was. I figured that if I said it enough, I would convince the world that I really was the greatest.”
- “Happy Birthday to You” was written by Louisville sisters
“Happy Birthday to You,” the most widely-recognized song in the English language, was created by two Louisville sisters, Patty Smith Hill and Mildred Jane Hill.
When Louisville sisters Mildred Jane Hill and Patty Smith Hill wrote music and lyrics for a new song for Mildred’s kindergarten class, it was unlikely they knew they would be writing the first notes of the most recognized song in history, trumping even the Beatles.The song began as “Good Morning to All,” and was published by the sisters in 1893 in a book called Song Stories for Children. According to reports by the sisters, the song would be used for various days and events, including birthdays in which it became “Happy Birthday to You.” Although the origins of the exact time of the song change (and by whom) have been debated inside and outside of the courtroom, Louisville proudly gives credit to the two ladies who started it all.
- Hunter S. Thompson, Gonzo Journalist, is from Louisville
Louisville native Hunter S. Thompson created a new era of first-person narrative journalism, known as Gonzo Journalism (photo courtesy of the Miami Dade College Archives)
He was the face of a new era of journalism, and he was a Louisville native. Hunter S. Thompson grew up in a two-story on Ransdell Avenue in the Cherokee Triangle neighborhood. As a boy he was known for his mischievous side and left Louisville for the Air Force after running into trouble in his teen years.Thompson went on to write for several famed publications, including Sports Illustrated and Rolling Stone, but it was an article published in Scanlan’s Monthly that changed the world of journalism forever. Appropriately titled for the Louisville writer, “The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved,” introduced society to what would be dubbed “Gonzo Journalism,” a first-person style of writing that basically throws objectivity out the window. The following year in 1971, he would become a household name with his book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Thompson died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 2005 at his home in Colorado.
- Old Louisville hosts the largest collection of Victorian homes in North America
While not the oldest neighborhood in Louisville, Old Louisville was once home to many of the city’s oldest and wealthiest families. Pictured here is Third Avenue in 1897.
Old Louisville may be the most interesting neighborhood in Louisville. Established as a suburb in the 1870’s, Old Louisville isn’t the oldest part of Louisville. Originally known as the “Southern Extension,” it didn’t claim the “Old Louisville” until the mid-1900s. In its day, the neighborhood was home to many of Louisville’s wealthiest social elite. The Ferguson mansion, now home to the Filson Historical Society, was built between 1901 and 1905 and was designed by the same architectural firm behind the Seelbach Hotel. The mansion was the most expensive home in Louisville when it was completed.The majority of the homes in Old Louisville are made of brick, and most residences feature original stained glass windows. In addition to being the largest collection of Victorian homes in North America, the neighborhood is the third-largest historically-preserved district in the United States.
- The expedition of Lewis and Clark started in Louisville
Lewis and Clark started their famous Corps of Discovery Expedition after meeting together in Louisville and gathering a crew known as “The Nine Young Men from Kentucky.”
When Thomas Jefferson became president, he was eager to see what the entire United States territory had to offer. Two years after his swearing in, the Louisiana Purchase was made and the U.S. got considerably larger. Jefferson commissioned William Clark and Meriwether Lewis to explore the land of the Louisiana Territory, west of the Mississippi. Before they took off on what would become a three-year journey that tested their physical, emotional, and mental strength, Lewis and Clark met up in where else but good ol’ Louisville. The majority of their crew was locals as well, referred to as “Nine young men from Kentucky.” On October 26, 1803, the crew set out, taking a piece of Louisville with them on the most famous expedition in U.S. history.
Five Things You Didn’t Know about Louisville
by Lisa Lakey
Lisa Lakey is a freelance writer living in central Arkansas with her husband and two children. She considers herself a true Southern girl who loves humid summers, cowboy boots, fried green tomatoes, and SEC Football.
Read more stories by Lisa Lakey
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