Life with Muhammad Ali
Lonnie was the fourth wife of the world-renowned boxing legend Muhammad Ali. She played a crucial role in the boxer’s life not just as a dutiful wife but also as a guide, counselor, care-taker, and philosopher. Despite this, Lonnie was largely ignored in Ali’s biography, 'Ali: A Life,' authored by Jonathan Eig.
Before getting married to Lonnie, Ali had married thrice. His first marriage was with cocktail waitress Sonji Roi. They divorced on January 10, 1966. Following this, in August 1967, Ali married actor Belinda Boyd. He fathered four children with her, namely, Maryum, twins Jamillah and Rasheda, and Muhammad Ali Jr. The boxer also had an illicit affair with Wanda Bolton (who later changed her name to Aaisha Ali) that resulted in the birth of their daughter Khaliah. Ali’s daughter Miya was born out of his illicit affair with Patricia Harvell. Ali got married for the third time, to Veronica Porche, and fathered two children with her, namely, Hana and Laila. They got divorced by 1986. Ali was still married to Veronica when he began a relationship with Lonnie.
Lonnie met Ali for the first time in 1963 in Louisville, their hometown. Lonnie was 6, while the boxing star was 21 at that time. Her family had then just moved to Montclair Villa, a subdivision in Louisville. Lonnie’s mother, Marguerite Williams, shared a friendly relationship with Ali’s mother. They often met at family get-togethers. Lonnie was initially scared when she saw the gigantic Ali. Nevertheless, they soon became comfortable with each other. On November 19, 1986, Ali and Lonnie got married at a small gathering. The wedding took place at the private home of a former mayor of Louisville, Harvey Sloane. The couple adopted a son, Asaad Amin.
Unfortunately, Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease around the time he married Lonnie. Before they got married, she had stayed with Ali in Los Angeles for a while to take care of him. Simultaneously, she completed her studies at the ‘UCLA.’ An arrangement between their families ensured Ali sponsored Lonnie’s MBA education, while she became his primary care-taker. The arrangement had the approval of Ali’s then-wife, Veronica. Lonnie’s sister, Marilyn, helped her take care of Ali.
In 1992, Lonnie set up a company named 'G.O.A.T. Inc.' (an acronym for “Greatest of All Time”) to manage Ali’s intellectual property. She combined all his intellectual properties for commercial purposes and licensed them all. Lonnie served as the company’s vice president and treasurer until it was sold off in 2006. The company was later renamed 'Muhammad Ali Enterprises' and was acquired by the 'Authentic Brands Group.' In 2005, Lonnie and Ali laid the foundation of the 'Muhammad Ali Center,' a non-profit museum and cultural center in Louisville.
In January 2007, Lonnie and Ali put their Berrien Springs home on sale. They had bought the property in 1975. They later moved to eastern Jefferson County, Kentucky, where they had purchased a home worth $1,875,000.
On July 27, 2012, Lonnie helped Ali stand before the 'Olympic' flag. He was the titular bearer of the flag during the opening ceremony of the 2012 'Summer Olympics' in London. Due to Parkinson's disease, Ali was weak and unable to stand without support. Hence, Lonnie carried Ali to the stadium and helped him perform the 'Olympic' ritual.
Ali died on June 3, 2016, in Scottsdale. His public funeral was held in Louisville and was attended by several sports legends and celebrities. Lonnie was one of the several speakers at the funeral and delivered a eulogy.
In 1988, Ali had undergone a paternity test after Kiiursti Mensah-Ali claimed to be his biological daughter with Barbara Mensah, with whom Ali had had a long-term relationship in the past. Although Ali agreed to take care of all of Kiiursti‘s responsibilities, he severed his connections with her after marrying Lonnie. Ali then lived in Scottsdale, Arizona, with Lonnie.