Drew Bundini Brown

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Drew Bundini Brown
Born(1928-03-21)March 21, 1928
DiedSeptember 24, 1987(1987-09-24) (aged 59)
Occupationathletic trainer, boxing cornerman, valet, actor
Spouse(s)Rhoda Palestine (divorced)
Children2 sons, Drew Bundini Brown III (with Palestine)
Ronald David Jackson (with blues singer Ruth Brown)

Drew Bundini Brown (March 21, 1928 – September 24, 1987) was an assistant trainer and cornerman of Muhammad Ali,[1] as well as occasional film actor. He was portrayed by actors Bernie Mac and Jamie Foxx in the films Don King: Only in America, and Ali respectively.

Early life[edit]

Brown, who was born in Midway, Florida, and raised in nearby Sanford, Florida, dropped out of junior high school after the eighth grade. The strapping young Brown, who had matured rapidly during puberty, was able to lie about his age and join the Navy as a messboy at age 13. Discharged two years later, he would become a United States Merchant Marine, and would spend 12 years traveling the world.


Brown joined Muhammad Ali's entourage as a cornerman in 1963[2] and remained with him throughout his career.[1] Later he also became a part of James "Quick" Tillis entourage as a cornerman.[3]

Brown was also one of Ali's speech writers. He wrote certain poems, including that which coined Ali's famous and oft quoted:

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, rumble young man rumble.”

Ali used the poem to taunt Sonny Liston at the press conference prior to his February 25, 1964 victory over the WBA and WBC champion to claim both titles.[1]

Personal life[edit]

In the early 1950s, while living in Harlem, New York, Brown met and married Rhoda Palestine, whose family was Russian-Jewish. Through this relationship, Brown would eventually convert to Reform Judaism. They married at a time when interracial relationships and marriages were considered by many as taboo, and had one son, Drew Brown III (born January 20, 1955, in Harlem).

According to the autobiography of singer Ruth Brown (no relation),[4] he was also the true father of her son Ronald David Jackson ("Ronnie"), though he was unaware of this during the boy's childhood.

His son Drew III later joined the United States Navy and became a Medium Attack Bomber pilot flying the A-6 Intruder. He then went on to write a bestselling book titled You Gotta Believe and became a nationally known speaker.[1][5]

Brown died in 1987 from the effects of a car accident. He pinched a nerve in his spine in the crash and subsequently suffered a serious fall at home from which he never recovered. He was visited by Ali on his deathbed.[6]He had one brother, Elbert James Brown who also was raised by his father Drew Brown Sr.


As actor[edit]

  • Penitentiary III (1987) .... Sugg/Inmate #2
  • The Color Purple (1985) .... Jook Joint Patron
  • Aaron Loves Angela (1975) .... Referee
  • Shaft's Big Score! (1972) .... Willy
  • Shaft (1971) .... Willy

As self[edit]

  • When We Were Kings (1996) (uncredited) .... Himself
  • Doin' Time (1985) .... Himself (special appearance)
  • Muhammad and Larry (1980) .... Himself
  • The Greatest (1977) .... Himself
  • "Am laufenden Band" (1976) .... Himself (1 TV episode, dated 22 May 1976 .... Himself

Archive footage[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Drew (Bundini) Brown". The New York Times. September 26, 1987.
  2. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20070408163951/http://everything2.com/index.pl?node=Muhammad%20Ali[dead link]
  3. ^ "Drew Bundini Brown. A Collection of un-published original manuscripts written by Drew Bundini Brown". Antekprizering.com. Retrieved 2010-08-03.
  4. ^ Brown, Ruth and Yule, Andrew. (1996). Miss Rhythm.
  5. ^ "404 page not found - Commander Drew Brown". www.drewbrown.net. Retrieved 4 August 2017.
  6. ^ Anderson, Dave (September 29, 1987). "Sports of the Times – Float Like a Bundini". The New York Times.

External links[edit]