Joe Louis

(Added to this website on 6/5/09.)

Main Menu     Back too Income Tax
There is a copy of an inflight report for passengers that I have kept since it was presented to me sometime in October 1948.   There is no date on it.   At the top of it is the logo and name of Capital Airlines, and a little sign that says "Welcome Aboard". Around the lower, left, and top margins are clouds in which are flying a Wright Flyer, a Jenny, a Ford Trimotor, a Savoia Marchetti S.73, a Boeing 247, a Douglas DC-4, and a Douglas DC-3.   It states that our position at 3:57 pm is over Midlake Erie at an altitude of 4,000 feet with a speed over the ground of 210 miles per hour.   We have tailwind of 10 miles per hour and the temperature outside is 53 degrees Fahrenheit.   We will arrive at Willow Run at 4:30 pm.   The next point of interest that we will fly over is the Canadian Shoreline and we shall see it at about 4:08 pm.   Our captain is R. Ricks, our first officer is F. Bus, our hostesses are H. Amyx and K. Medlock.   At the bottom are the statements Please pass this report to the next passenger - or return to hostess.   If you wish the hostess will have the Captain prepare another copy for you with our compliments.

On the back of the report is the signature of Joe Louis.

Sometime after the school year began in the fall of 1948, my grandmother in Silver Spring, Maryland, suffered her third stroke.   She was not expected live, so Mother and I reserved seats on a Capital Airlines DC-3 which would pick us up at a little airport in Freeland, Michigan.

When arrived at the little airfield, Mother did what was required at the small terminal and we went outside to await the airplane.   The DC-3 landed, taxied over the grass to where we were, turned right with a blast from its left engine, and then there was a blast from both engines as it pulled foward.   We were then behind it and we felt the wind from its engines and watched the grass blades bend toward us.   I was impressed.

In the terminal, a handsome black man had opened the door for us as we went outside.   He and a little man with a strange accent (probably from the New York area) were together and followed us on to the airplane as it sat with its tail on the ground.   I thought it was strange when we had to climb upward to reach our seat about midway up the fuselage on the left side.   The two men sat on the right side slightly behind us.   The little man spoke to me when I turned to look.

"Be sure you don't take a poke at him," he said, motioning to the black man.   Then, "Do you know who he is?"

I shook my head.

"He's Joe Louis," the little man said.   At this, Mother turned her head and a conversation ensued which lasted until take-off when I felt the plane surge forward and watched the ground fall away to become a toy landscape.   The little man was Mr. Louis' manager.   The airplane, its crew, Joe Louis, and the little manager made this my first and probably my most memorable flight.

Mr. Louis was given the inflight report so that he could give me his autograph.   He seemed to be a very modest man, letting the little man do all of his talking.   He was very polite and appeared to be very self-confident.

When we arrived in Silver Spring, Mom (my grandmother) was unable to speak or to move.   Mother hated to see her suffer and cared for her for the following weeks while I was temporarily enrolled in school.   On November 4, Mom passed away.   She had been my best friend for many years and we all missed her - Pop (my grandfather) most of all.

Mother and I went home shortly thereafter - not by air.   Joe Louis went on with his boxing career (heavyweight champion of the world).

Boxing has had different rules in different times with different organizations, but prize fighting in major bouts in Joe Louis' time had the following rules.   There were 15 three minute rounds with one minute of rest between rounds.   If there was a knockout, the fight was over before there were more rounds.   Judges decided which boxer won each round, and at the end of the fight the boxer with the most rounds won was the overall winner.   Boxers wore lightweight boxing gloves (padded) and were not allowed to hit their opponents below the belt, when their opponent was down or rising after a knockdown, butt their opponent, hit backhandedly, hit with the open glove, knee the opponent, hit over the kidneys, or use a rabbit punch.   In most regards boxing was safer and less brutal than what passes as martial arts today.   There was less corruption in Louis' time than we have today in "martial arts" contests.   Joe Louis won his fights fairly.

Boxers were classified by weight and were relatively light compared to the larger generation of today: flyweight was no more that 112 pounds, bantamweight was 112 to 118 pounds, featherweight was 118 to 126 pounds, lightweight was from 126 to 135 pounds, welterweight was from 135 to 147 pounds, middleweight was from 147 to 160 pounds, light-heavyweight was from 160 to 175 pounds, and heavyweight was over 175 pounds.

Joe Louis' name was actually Joseph Louis Barrow.   He was born on May 13, 1914, near Lafayette, Alabama.   His father was a sharecropper who died when Joe was four years old, and his family subsequently moved to Detroit, Michigan.

At age 16, Joe began his career in amateur boxing, and by the time he was 19 he had won the Golden Gloves light-heavyweight title.   In the next year he won the National Amateur Athletic Union light-heavyweight title in St. Louis, Missouri.   In the same year on July 4, he turned professional.   Three years later, he had won 22 fights, 18 by knockouts.   He defeated James J. Braddock on June 22, 1937, at the world's heavyweight championship in Chicago.   At 23 he was the youngest boxer to win the title.   He held the title for 12 years.   He had lost only one bout when he was defeated by Max Schmeling on June 19, 1936.   In 1938, he had a second fight with Schmeling which Joe won by a knockout in the first round.

In 1949, after defending his crown 25 times, he retired from the ring, well known for his lightning punches and poker-faced calm.   On September, 27, 1950, he tried to regain his title from Ezzard Charles at Yankee Stadium in New York City, but lost by decision after 15 rounds.   On October 26, 1951, he was knocked out by Rocky Marciano.   Joe Lewis was then 37 years old, too old for prize fighter.   He would have preferred to retire long before, but he was forced to keep fighting - which is a sad story that angers most who have heard it.

After Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese on December 7, 1941, Joe Lewis had a title fight.   He donated all of the money he received to the Navy Relief Fund.   In his later fights during the war, he donated all he received to similar funds.

After the war, the IRS with their graduated income tax, insisted that he pay taxes on all of his donated money.   He had kept none of it and the IRS took everything of his and then charged him interest of $50,000 per year for the balance due.   This was at a time when my father, a well-paid research chemist, made about $8,000 per year.   So $50,000 was a lot of money.   Joe Louis was forced to keep fighting well after his prime just to pay taxes on money he never saw.   He was never able to pay it all and the IRS kept taking everything he had - including $600 that his Mother left him in her will and all the money that was in his children's trust fund.

His debt grew as the IRS charged him interest on interest until it was in excess of a million dollars with interest in excess of $100,000 dollars a year.   As Joe grew older, he had to eventually take a job as a greeter for a Las Vegas hotel.   He died penniless, still not having paid his "debt" to the IRS.   As someone said, even the Mafia has a code of honor, but the IRS has no honor.   Max Schmeling paid for Joe Louis' funeral.

Sources: Encyclopedia Americana, DVD America - Freedom to Fascism/Volume One, and own first-hand experience.

Main Menu     Back too Income Tax