Joe Louis: The "Brown Bomber" World Heavyweight Boxing Champion

Photo: Joseph Louis Barrow (b. May 13, 1914 – d. April 12, 1981)
(Photo by Carl Van Vechten)

Joe Louis Barrow will always top the list of truly great boxers. Better known as Joe Louis or the Brown Bomber, Louis was World Heavyweight Boxing Champion from 1937-1949.


Born inside a sharecropper's shack in 1914 in Lexington, Alabama, the young Louis later moved to Detroit with his family. Hauling blocks of ice for a living as a young man, Louis developed a muscular build from hauling blocks of ice for a living as a young man.

Louis' teachers told his parents that he would have to make a living with his hands because he developed a stammer and became withdrawn in his youth. This turned out to be a prophetic statement since Louis would defend his heavyweight title 25 times, knocking out his opponents in 21 of those fighting matches.


Of his 68 victories in professional boxing, Louis only lost three times. He became the most famous Black man in the world after winning a fight with German boxer Max Schmeling in 1938. This was a major victory for Louis' career. For Black people, his was was a mighty blow struck at racial injustice.

Louis died in 1981 at the age of 66. His late wife renovated the building where they resided at 4326 S. Michigan in Chicago. The building has become a historical landmark in African American history.

1982 U.S. Congressional Gold Medals Honor Joe Louis

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