Glenn Singleton wasn’t sure how well he’d handle his final visit to see his hero, Muhammed Ali, as he and his family traveled to Louisville to be part of the legend’s funeral. It turned into a weekend he’d never forget.
The Ama native who long ago established an “Ali Showroom” at his home in response to Ali calling him his “best fan” made a more than 10 hour drive with his family to attend the event, telling stories of his times meeting the all-time great boxer to his two sons and daughter.
Singleton estimated that more than 13,000 people were in attendance at the memorial service. He said he had goosebumps when the crowd at large began to chant Ali’s name.
He said it took awhile to compose himself, but seeing so many others celebrating Ali’s life helped him regroup.
“It was like a home-going,” Singleton said. “I saw how others were handling it, so many people that loved Ali just like I loved him. It settled me down and kind of let me enjoy the moment.”
Singleton and his family also got to visit Ali’s childhood home, something Singleton said he will always remember.
But the most special part of the trip, he said, was still to come. Rahaman Ali, brother of Muhammed, had a message to deliver. There was going to be a private reception for Ali’s family, friends and special guests — and what would it have been without the champ’s best fan?
“He walked up to me and said ‘Glenn, there’s a special family visitation, and you are a guest with the family to be there,’” Singleton said. “Again, tears were just flowing out my eyes. Rahaman told me he considered me a little brother.
“You all are coming, too, he said to my family … I was blown away. Absolutely blown away.”
He was one of the very few of the thousands in attendance to have a private moment to say goodbye. Just hours earlier, Ali’s casket had been barricaded off to the thousands out to see him.
“I had my own special moment to be with the champ,” Singleton said. “These people treated me as immediate family.”
And he finally began to feel like it was alright to say goodbye after an emotional week. Singleton, who had spent time with Ali and members of Ali’s family several times, said the fighter’s death hit him as if he’d lost a family member. Singleton said he was grateful to the many people who thought of him and reached out to offer support, in particular his friend Sally Church, who gave him a special rosary as he coped.
Singleton said he has no doubt that if Ali looked down on everyone gathered together on that day, he “will be resting in peace.”
“A man that promoted peace all of his life looked down and saw it within those two days,” Singleton said. “He saw people united from all over the world. He saw what he meant to so many people.”
As he stood by his champion’s casket to say goodbye for one last time, Singleton read an exerpt from his book, “My Hero: Ali.” He intended to give the book to Ali for his 75th birthday in January.
“I wrote, ‘A lion who roars teaches cubs the art of survival, in the jungle,” Singleton said. “‘The art is in the roar. In order to roar like a lion, you have to see a lion roar. Muhammed Ali was a lion who roared at a time everyone was afraid to.
“You were our lion, the king of the jungle.”