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People Across Louisville, Ky., Celebrate Life Of Muhammad Ali

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Outside that arena, many people gathered to pay their respects to Muhammad Ali. One of them was Roger Miller, who's 72 years old. He says he traveled all the way from Delaware and told us what Ali meant to him as a black man.

ROGER MILLER: This man, Muhammad Ali, he gave us our identity. He is the one - restored our dignity back, our identity. He started fighting and striving for that. Before Ali, my grandfather, he was a boy. They called him boy. My dad, they called him boy. They called me boy, OK? Boy, go get this. Boy. Ali was a man.

SIEGEL: Keesha Malone (ph) was also in the crowd. She's from Louisville, and she said Ali was a role model.

KEESHA MALONE: To come from, like, the West End of Louisville, struggling with school, he definitely gives people, like, a real-life goal to work for that you can actually come from nothing and make something and speak your - whatever your destiny is into existence.

SIEGEL: Earlier, I spoke to reporter Jake Ryan of member station WFPL in Louisville. He was outside the arena where the memorial was being held.

JAKE RYAN, BYLINE: It's a hot day here. It's about 90 degrees. We're right next to the Ohio River so it's very humid. But the heat is not keeping people away. There are thousands of people outside of the arena today from all over the place. There's people carrying flowers. There's people riding up on bicycles. There's people having picnics out here. It's just like - it's just a really big celebration of Muhammad Ali's life today, and it's something like I've never seen in the city before.

This morning, there was a procession that ran through the city, and thousands of people lined the streets of the 19-mile procession and just cheered and cried and threw roses on Ali's hearse as it passed. And it was just something like I've never seen.

SIEGEL: And was it a diverse crowd? Did it draw upon different sectors of Louisville society?

RYAN: Oh, yeah. So the procession passed through Muhammad Ali's boyhood home, which is in the city's West Side, which is an area of the city that faces a lot of poverty. There's vacant houses throughout the West End of Louisville. And many people on the East End of Louisville maybe haven't - they don't travel over to that side of town very often. But today, it really doesn't matter where you're from and it doesn't matter - you know, there are no lines in the city today. It's something - it's really interesting to see. People are just coming together - white people, black people, Muslims, Christians. Everyone's coming together to celebrate Muhammad Ali.

SIEGEL: Jake, thanks a lot for that.

RYAN: Thank you, Robert.

SIEGEL: That's Jake Ryan of member station WFPL in Louisville, Ky. That is where thousands of people have gathered for a memorial to the late Muhammad Ali. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.