Ali’s Bodyguard, Warmed by Memories, Now Guards Schoolchildren
CHICAGO (AP) _ A man who once guarded boxing great Muhammad Ali now guards schoolchildren at street crossings, but says memories of the places he went can keep him warm on cold Chicago mornings.
″Sometimes I’ll see a person or something that takes me back; reminds me of the Hotel Excelsior in Rome or a place in Monte Carlo where my wife and I dined,″ Howard ″Pat″ Patterson said recently. ″It comes and goes.″
″I’m a better man for having been around him,″ Patterson said of Ali. ″He was kind and sweet and taught me how to treat people with decency. He showed me that the joy of living is giving, not receiving.″
When Ali needed a bodyguard in 1965, Herbert Muhammad, then the fighter’s manager, saw rookie police officer Patterson in action and liked what he saw.
Patterson joined the Ali entourage in time for the heavyweight champion’s title defense that year against George Chuvalo in Toronto, and stayed on until the sad finale, a 1981 loss in the Bahamas to Trevor Berbick.
″It was an amazingly glorious ride,″ said Dr. Ferdie Pacheco, who prepped Ali for fights and now works as a commentator for NBC. ″And amidst all the hustlers, Pat was essential to the peace and quiet of the Ali circus.″
Patterson became one of Ali’s true confidants, so much so that he has been entrusted with a trunk of memorabilia for safekeeping.
In the television room of Patterson’s South Side home, the walls are covered with photographs of the young Ali and Patterson, almost always grinning and in the company of such luminaries as Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, Michael Jackson, Joe Louis, Dinah Shore, Sylvester Stallone and Henry Kissinger.
Patterson recalls trips with Ali to Zaire, the Oval Office, Manila and the Bahamas - and more countries, kings, queens, palaces, presidents and celebrities than he can recall.
Patterson still talks of Ali with such affection that he appears ready to quit his job at a moment’s notice - he now supervises 55 police crossing guards - and show up again at Ali’s side.
″He’s got nothing to be sorry about,″ Patterson said. ″He’s lived like few others, and I did my share with him.″