Clay v. United States

(1971)

The U.S. Supreme Court’s June 1971 decision in Cassius Marsellus Clay, Jr. also known as Muhammad Ali v. United States, commonly known as Clay v. United States, unanimously overturned professional boxing champion Muhammad Ali’s 1967 conviction for refusing induction into the armed services. Specifically, the Court concluded that the Kentucky Selective Service Appeal Board had received erroneous advice from the Department of Justice in rejecting Ali’s application for conscientious objector status. Having converted to Islam in 1964, Ali—born Cassius Clay, Jr.—claimed that serving as a member of the U.S. Army in Vietnam violated his religious principles. In a now-famous quote on his reasons for refusing military service, Ali stated: “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Vietcong.”

Americans were baffled by Ali: Always flamboyant, undeniably brash, and some might say downright smug, he referred to himself as both “the prettiest” and “the Greatest,” belittled his boxing opponents...

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Chief Justice Warren Burger (Library of Congress)

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