Video: When Muhammad Ali Stopped A Suicidal Man From Jumping Off An L.A. Building
As we mourn the death of Muhammad Ali, the greatest of all time, there is so much more to celebrate than his incredible boxing career. Every obit you read should mention what kind of person he was outside the ring: a civil rights and anti-war activist, a brilliant thinker, a poet, and a hero—in this case, embodying the most literal, immediate sense of the term.
On January 21, 1981, Ali was called to the 9th floor of the Dominguez-Wilshire Building, an Art Deco tower located on the Miracle Mile, to try and prevent a man from jumping to his death.
"Muhammad Ali was never your garden-variety champion of all the world," Walter Cronkite begins his report for CBS News. True that.
On the 9th floor of the building at Wilshire and Cloverdale, about a mile from Ali's Hancock Park home at the time, a hooded man stood on the ledge, shouting, "I'm no good, I'm going to jump. The Viet Cong are coming at me."
Police, a psychologist, and a minister had all been called to the ledge to try to calm the man, but they'd all "given up" after hours of coaxing. But Muhammad Ali, who happened to be nearby the building, volunteered to come up to the ledge himself and talk to the distraught man.
Ali then headed for another window, poked his head out and yelled to the man, "I'm your brother, I want to help you." The man recognized Ali, and opened the door to the fire escape as Ali approached him. They sat and talked for 20 minutes, and as the report notes, it looked like "Ali was going to fail" several times. But Ali wouldn't let that happen, would he?
The man eventually agreed to come inside, and began to weep. He was taken to the psychiatric ward of a veteran's hospital, where Ali promised to visit him.