Quantcast

Boxer Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter dies at 76

By Greg Beacham AP Sports Writer | 4/25/2014, 12:45 p.m.
Rubin "Hurricane'' Carter never surrendered hope of regaining his freedom, not even after he was convicted of a triple murder, ...
In this Jan. 29, 2004 file photo, former boxer, Rubin, “Hurricane” Carter, holds up the writ of habeas corpus that freed him from prison, during a news conference held in Sacramento, Calif. Carter, who spent almost 20 years in jail after twice being convicted of a triple murder he denied committing, died at his home in Toronto, Sunday, April 20, 2014, according to long-time friend and co-accused John Artis. He was 76. File photo by Rich Pedroncelli/AP.

Muhammad Ali and Coretta Scott King spoke out on Carter's behalf. Other celebrities also worked toward his release, joined by a network of friends and volunteers.

Carter eventually won his freedom from U.S. District Judge H. Lee Sarokin, who wrote that the boxer's prosecution had been "predicated upon an appeal to racism rather than reason, and concealment rather than disclosure.''

Born on May 6, 1937, into a family of seven children, Carter struggled with a hereditary speech impediment and was sent to a juvenile reform center at 12 after an assault. He escaped and joined the Army in 1954 and learned to box while in West Germany.

After returning home, he committed a series of muggings and spent four years in various state prisons. Upon his release, he began his pro boxing career, winning 20 of his first 24 fights mostly by knockout.

At 5-foot-8 (1.75 meters), Carter was fairly short for a middleweight, but he was aggressive and threw waves of punches. His shaved head and menacing glower gave him an imposing ring presence but also contributed to a forbidding aura outside the ring. He was quoted as joking about killing police officers in a 1964 story in the Saturday Evening Post, which was later cited by Carter as a cause of his troubles with law enforcement.

Carter boxed regularly on television at Madison Square Garden and in London, Paris and Johannesburg. Although his career appeared to be on a downswing before he was implicated in the murders, the 29-year-old fighter was hoping for a second middleweight title shot.

Carter defied his prison guards from the first day of his incarceration and spent time in solitary confinement because of it.

"When I walked into prison, I refused to wear their stripes,'' Carter said. "I refused to eat their food. I refused to work their jobs, and I would have refused to breathe the prison's air if I could have done so.''

Carter eventually wrote and spoke eloquently about his plight, publishing his autobiography, "The Sixteenth Round,'' in 1974. Benefit concerts were held for his legal defense featuring Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Roberta Flack.

Although many of his celebrity friends abandoned the cause after his second conviction and an allegation of assault during his brief release, other advocates worked tirelessly on his behalf, culminating in Sarokin's ruling and two subsequent failed prosecutorial appeals to have the convictions reinstated. Each year on the anniversary Sarokin's decision, Carter called the judge to thank him.

After his release, Carter moved to Toronto, where he served as the executive director of the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted from 1993 to 2005. He received two honorary doctorates for his work.

Canadian director Norman Jewison made Carter's story into a biographical film. Washington worked closely with Carter to capture the boxer's transformation and redemption.

"He's all love,'' Washington said while onstage with Carter at the 2000 ceremony where he won a Golden Globe. "He lost about 7,300 days of his life, and he's love.''

The makers of "The Hurricane,'' however, were widely criticized for factual inaccuracies and glossing over other parts of Carter's story, including his criminal past and a reputation for a violent temper. Giardello sued the film's producers for its depiction of a racist fix in his victory over Carter, who had long acknowledged that Giardello deserved the win.

Artis said Carter will be cremated and didn't want a funeral or any memorial. Artis has been taking care of him since 2011.

"He was a champion of the underdog,'' he said. "He was like the David against the Goliath of the justice system.''

Kidrin spoke with Carter on Wednesday.

"He said, `You know, look, death's coming. I'm ready for it. But it's really going to have to take me because I'm positive to the end.'''


AP Sports Writer Rick Freeman and AP Drama Writer Mark Kennedy in New York and Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.