Cassius Marcellus Clay Sr.
|Cassius Marcellus Clay, Sr.|
November 11, 1912|
Jefferson County, Kentucky, U.S.
|Died||February 8, 1990
Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Odessa Grady Clay (m. 1933–1990)|
|Children||Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay Jr.) (1942-2016)
Rahman Ali (Rudy Clay) (b. 1943)
|Parent(s)||Herman H. Clay
Edith E. Greathouse
Cassius Marcellus Clay (November 11, 1912 – February 8, 1990) was a painter and musician. He was the father of American three-time World Heavyweight Champion Muhammad Ali and Rudolph Valentino Clay, who is now named Rahman Ali. He was the grandfather of Laila Ali. He married Odessa Lee O'Grady in the 1930s and worked as a painter and a musician. He was described as "a handsome, mercurial, noisy, combative failed dreamer" and a "hard-drinking, skirt-chasing dandy of a daddy". His son Muhammad Ali described him as "the fanciest dancer in Louisville".
Clay was born in Jefferson County, Kentucky, the son of Herman H. Clay (March 1876 – February 1, 1954) and Edith E. Greathouse (December 1890 – December 30, 1971). He had a sister and four brothers, including Nathaniel Clay. Clay's paternal grandparents were John Clay and Sallie Anne Clay. His sister Eva said that Sallie was a native of Madagascar. He was named after the 19th-century Republican politician and staunch abolitionist, Cassius Marcellus Clay, also from the state of Kentucky.
Clay painted billboards and signs. He also played the piano, took piano lessons and wrote music. Around 1933, he married Odessa Lee O'Grady. He was a heavy drinker, which led to legal entanglements for reckless driving, disorderly conduct, and assault and battery. When asked in 1970 why he had not become a Muslim as his son had done, he said: "my religion is my talent, that which supports me."
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But the Clays have been there for six generations—ever since their ancestors worked first as slaves, then as farm laborers on the plantation of Cassius Marcellus Clay, who was Lincoln's Minister to Russia.
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More than once Odessa Clay had her husband brought into court for roughing her up. Cassius Sr. was also arrested for reckless driving, disorderly conduct and assault and battery, always after he had been drinking.... [He] "isn't a criminal or even an evil man. He's just a frustrated little guy who can't drink. He never served any time and he never will."
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- Egerton, John (1991). Shades of Gray: Dispatches from the Modern South. LSU Press. ISBN 0807117056. Retrieved 2012-10-23.