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calendar   Friday - July 29, 2005

Two Men & Two Diverging Paths

In 1960, two men came together on the US Olympic boxing team. Both won gold medals. From there, their paths diverged. One went on to convert to Islam and claim conscientious objector status, based on his religion and after avoiding service in Vietnam, went on to become a famous boxer who made millions of dollars as a professional boxer. The other? Well, he took a different path. He died this week at the Veterans Hospital in Montgomery, AL. His story is just as amazing but will probably be forgotten since all he did was serve his country ....

(NEWSDAY - COLUMBUS, Ga.)—Eddie Crook Jr., who won an Olympic gold medal as a teammate of Muhammad Ali and served two tours in Vietnam with the U.S. Army, died Monday. He was 76. Crook died of natural causes at the veteran’s hospital in Montgomery, Ala., said funeral director Charles Huff.

Crook, who lived in Columbus, was a command sergeant major in the Army who won a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts in addition to being on the 1960 Olympic team along with the fighter then known as Cassius Clay. “We never thought of all that,” Eddie Crook III told the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer on Wednesday. “To us, he was just Dad.”

The funeral will be 12:30 p.m. Friday at St. John AME Church in Columbus, according to Charles Huff’s International Funeral Home. Wearing his full dress uniform complete with bow-tie and gloves, Crook will be buried at the Main Post Cemetery at Fort Benning, where he trained boxers and soldiers.

Another Olympic boxer, Skeeter McClure, a psychologist and former chairman of the Massachusetts State Boxing Commission, said Crook was a soldier going into the 1960 Olympic Games and he remained a soldier. “He just lived his life,” McClure said.

McClure was a middleweight and thought he knew all the amateurs, but his trainer warned him about an Army fighter named Eddie Crook, a sergeant at Fort Campbell, Ky. Crook had been a sure bet for the 1956 Olympics but broke his hand in an early fight. The 1960 Olympic Trials were held at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. There, McClure was rudely introduced to Crook.

“The bell rang and the next thing I heard was the referee saying `3 ... 4 ... 5.’ He gave me a standing eight count and I asked him ‘How in the hell did that guy get across the ring so fast?’” McClure recalled.

The Columbas (GA) Ledger-Enquirer has an excellent write-up on Eddie Crook’s life.


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Posted by The Skipper   United States  on 07/29/2005 at 10:10 AM   
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