What’s in a name? A lot, if you asked the late Muhammad Ali.
The boxing and civil rights icon, who famously changed his name from Cassius Clay after converting to Islam, once gave President John F. Kennedy’s youngest sister, Jean Kennedy Smith, some memorable advice about her own name.
Speaking about her recent memoir, The Nine of Us: Growing Up Kennedy, during an event at the JFK Library in Boston on Tuesday night, the 88-year-old former ambassador to Ireland shared an untold story about Ali that she said she forgot to include in her book.
Smith recalled how Ali was taking a tour of the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. one day when she was there, and his tour guide asked Smith to take over.
After she finished showing him around, Smith recalled, “He said, ‘Thank you so much,’ and I said, ‘I think I have to go back now.’ He said, ‘What did you say your name was again?’ and I said, ‘My name is Jean Kennedy Smith.’ “
“If I was you,” Ali replied, “I’d drop the Smith.”
Smith’s memoir, published in October, is a rose-colored look at her childhood that does not address in depth the assassinations of her brothers JFK and Bobby, nor the trial of her son, William Kennedy Smith, who was charged and acquitted of rape in a 1991 trial in Palm Beach, Florida.
Instead, Smith, JFK’s last surviving sibling, recounts “charming stories” about the Kennedys, long lionized as American royalty for their decades of civic service and headline-grabbing private lives.
“It’s sometimes difficult to comprehend that I am the only member of our original family still living,” she writes in her memoir.
- Reporting by Juliet Pennington