Lonnie Ali is a proud native of Louisville, Kentucky. Lonnie’s hometown holds a special place in her heart, as Louisville is the location where she would eventually meet her philanthropic partner, soul mate, and lifelong love, Muhammad Ali. However, before Muhammad entered the picture, Lonnie endeavored to create a robust and enriched life of her own, full of educational enlightenment, compassion, and spirituality.
As a bright, intelligent, and academically ambitious young woman, Lonnie left Louisville to pursue a bachelor’s degree at the prestigious Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Upon graduation in 1978, Lonnie briefly served the Commonwealth of Kentucky as an Employment Counselor before successfully entering the world of business with an account sales position at Kraft Foods, Inc. Lonnie’s eternal thirst for knowledge lead her to UCLA’s Graduate School of Management where she continued her business studies (now the UCLA Anderson School of Management). In 1986 she received an MBA with an emphasis in Marketing.
Lonnie and Muhammad Ali wed in November of 1986. In Lonnie, Muhammad found the love of his life, but also a brilliant, mindful, and benevolent teammate. Once married, she assumed responsibility for the coordination and eventual management of his business affairs. In September of 1992, Lonnie formally incorporated Greatest of All Time, Inc. (GOAT, Inc.) to centralize and license her husband’s intellectual properties for commercial purposes. As Vice President and Treasurer of GOAT, Inc., she managed the daily operations of the company while accompanying her husband on domestic and international business trips. Lonnie worked to spread Muhammad’s humanitarian message of peace, kindness, and spirituality while exponentially growing his brand.
While actively managing GOAT, Inc., Lonnie partnered with her husband on many of his humanitarian initiatives throughout the world, including inspiring missions to Cuba, India, the Khyber Pass, Pakistan, Sudan and Uganda. Within the United States, she has supported, accompanied, and spoken on her husband’s behalf at numerous charitable organizations, including Athletes for Hope, Birch Family Services, The Cal Ripkin, Sr. Foundation, The Celebrity Fight Night Foundation, The International Red Cross, The Lou Ruvo Foundation, The Magic Johnson Foundation, Project ALS, Special Olympics, The Starkey Hearing Foundation and UNICEF.
As passionate advocates of education, Lonnie and Muhammad partnered with Scholastic to develop the Muhammad Ali: GO THE DISTANCE reading program in order to foster confidence, academic skills and love of learning in young students. The program provided teachers in grades 3-8 with a research-based curriculum along with instructional practices to motivate learning and improve comprehension in students who struggled academically. As part of the program, Lonnie would regularly speak to groups of students at various schools throughout the United States about Muhammad’s struggle with dyslexia and how he overcame his fear of reading. Muhammad’s early challenges with reading taught him determination, conviction and respect…all of which he utilized throughout his journey to become a World Heavyweight Boxing Champion and American Icon.
Lonnie and Muhammad’s philanthropic efforts are truly inspirational and seemingly endless. In 1997, Lonnie and Muhammad helped launch the Muhammad Ali Parkinson’s Center (MAPC) in Phoenix, Arizona. MAPC is dedicated to the comprehensive care and support of Parkinson patients and their families, regardless of their ability to afford treatment or other resources. In 2009, Lonnie and her husband unveiled the Muhammad and Lonnie Ali Pavilion, which houses the newly built Muhammad Ali Parkinson’s Center at Barrow Neurological Institute.
She and her husband then opened the Muhammad Ali Center in their hometown of Louisville, Kentucky in November of 2005. Lonnie serves as a Lifetime Director. The Ali Center is a multicultural center with an award-winning museum dedicated to Muhammad’s prodigious life and legacy. Its educational initiatives focus on promoting respect, hope and understanding; and inspiring people around the globe to be as great as they can be. Lonnie also serves as Vice Chair of the Muhammad Ali Center Board.
After the sale of GOAT, Inc. in 2006, Lonnie was asked to serve on the management board of the newly formed company, Muhammad Ali Enterprises. Of course, she remained active in various charitable causes, especially advocating for children’s rights and Parkinson’s Disease research. She served on the Board of Directors of the Michael J. Fox Foundation and partnered with a major pharmaceutical company to launch a national campaign in support of Parkinson’s caregivers. She has been a frequent guest speaker at Parkinson Disease support groups and research gatherings. From 2010 to 2013, Lonnie served on the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues.
Lonnie has selflessly devoted herself to a life of service and education. For this, she has been honored many times by a multitude of organizations. Lonnie was the 2010 recipient of AARP’s Inspire Award for her advocacy work for Parkinson’s research, patients and caregivers. In 2012 she was named one of Arizona’s “48 Most Intriguing Women” as part of the state’s centennial celebration. The National Consortium for Academics and Sports inducted Lonnie into their Hall of Fame in 2013. In 2014, she was honored by The Foundation of Wesley Woods with the Key to a Cure Award, which recognized her efforts to raise awareness and funding for Parkinson’s research. Child Help and the HollyRod Foundation have also honored her tireless service efforts. In 2016, Lonnie was awarded the WLKY Spirit of Louisville Bell Award, which recognizes individuals who have demonstrated the true “spirit of Louisville” through outstanding volunteer service in the Louisville community. In 2017, Lonnie and Muhammad Ali were presented the Nancy Lieberman Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award, in which they were honored for their countless humanitarian efforts.
Inspiring humanitarian, Parkinson’s research and awareness advocate, children’s education defender, and soul mate to Muhammad Ali; Lonnie is also a proud mother and stepmother, living in Paradise Valley, Arizona. Her husband, The Greatest of All Time, Muhammad Ali passed away in June of 2016. Lonnie eloquently captured Muhammad’s life and dreams in an inspiring eulogy just days after his passing at his Memorial Service, viewed by one billion people worldwide. Lonnie currently serves as the Chairwoman of the ALI IN ALL OF US Initiative. ALI IN ALL OF US is an initiative honoring the awe-inspiring life of Muhammad Ali, encouraging others to inspire the world; one person at a time engaging in service to others and creating an awareness of service that extends to people’s daily life and interactions with others.