WBRE 28/WYOU 22 EYEWITNESS NEWS — In tonight’s Eyewitness to History we go back in time to election season 1981, when Scranton had a visit from an a-list charismatic sports star.
WBRE 28/ WYOU 22 Eyewitness News photojournalist Joseph Butash takes us to the political ring on North Washington Avenue for a visit from “The Greatest”.
In fall of 1981, one of the most recognizable people on the planet stopped by Scranton City Hall, and our cameras were there.
Former WDAU journalist Sue Miller can be heard saying: “Scranton mayoral candidate Angelo Craig doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to his campaign. Craig and a friend were the “main event” in downtown Scranton today. The champ , “The Greatest”, the former heavyweight champion of the world, Muhammad Ali, strolled through the streets signing autographs to the surprise of many a citizen. Then Craig took Ali to the mayor’s office where they took a look at the décor. Ali said that if he was a Scrantonian, his vote would have to go to Angelo Craig.”
“I’m here because Angelo, I met about four years ago. I had a light boxing match on the streets of Philadelphia. I heard he’s running for mayor, I know he’s a man. He knows the condition of the masses of people, his properties was mistreated. I sure he wants to stop it and feed it back and solve the problems. And he’s sincere of heart of the masses is this man here. And that’s why I’m here, let the people know, if I was local, he would have my vote,” Ali said to Miller.
Miller then asked Ali if there was any truth to the rumor that he was planning a comeback and about his career, to which Ali replied: “I shall return.”
According to Miller’s reporting, Mayor Eugene Hickey presented Ali with a key to the city. The champ then took off with fans and Craig in tow to tour the rest of the downtown area.
The 1981 Scranton mayoral election was won by Democrat James Barrett McNulty. Even though Ali passed away in 2016, his image continues to be one of the most recognizable in the world.
The reporter in that story was the pride of Point Pleasant, New Jersey, former WDAU journalist Sue Miller. McNulty defeated Republican Gene Veno and independent candidate Angelo Craig.
Ali’s training site in Deer Lake, Schuylkill County, now known as “Fighter’s Heaven”, continues to attract visitors to learn more about the boxer known as “The Greatest”.