Columbus-born boxer Henry Armstrong poses in the late 1930s. Armstrong is the only boxer to hold three separate weight class championships simultaneously. Columbus City Council unanimously voted to dedicate "Henry Armstrong Way" to honor his legacy. Photo by: Photo courtesy of The Henry Armstrong Foundation
July 17, 2019 11:20:10 AM
Twenty-seven consecutive wins by knockout. Simultaneous world titles in three weight divisions.
The "Henry Armstrong Way" led straight to the top of the professional boxing world in the 1930s. But it started with the legendary boxer's birth in Columbus and will now be commemorated for posterity on Third Street North downtown.
City councilmen voted Tuesday to dedicate six blocks of the street -- from Main to Seventh Avenue -- as Henry Armstrong Way, at the request of a local committee formed in the late boxer's name. A dedication ceremony will be scheduled in the coming weeks.
"Most people know Henry Armstrong was successful," said committee member Glen Lautzenhiser. "Most people know he was the only person to hold three titles at the same time. I'm not sure too many people understand the depth and breadth of the magnitude of what Henry Armstrong accomplished. It's truly an amazing story."
Armstrong, born in Columbus in 1912, moved to St. Louis, Missouri, during his childhood. Shortly after graduating high school, he started his professional boxing career in 1931. By 1938, Armstrong had accomplished a feat no boxer had before, and likely never will again. While holding the world featherweight championship, Armstrong won the world welterweight championship, then dropped weight classes and won the world lightweight title, becoming the first and only boxer to hold world championships in three different weight divisions at one time.
His accolades, awards and records for boxing continue in long esteem, but what he did after he retired from the sport in 1945 is equally compelling, though maybe not as well-known. He became an ordained minister and dedicated much of his time to helping underprivileged youth until his death in 1988.
Armstrong's grandson, Edward Scott Jr., said his grandfather's retirement years made him a true role model. So much so, that Scott continues Armstrong's post-retirement mission as president of the Henry Armstrong Foundation, a nonprofit based in Los Angeles, California.
"After retiring from boxing, he dedicated himself to helping young kids, as well as giving back to the world preaching God's word," Scott said. "We want people to learn from him. No matter what you might be facing, if you believe in yourself and trust God, you can be successful. ... We've been honoring his legacy since 2005 through the Henry Armstrong Foundation. We are continuing his legacy by helping those who are under-served."
'He deserves it'
Earlier this year, Scott reached out to Lautzenhiser looking for support from the city. Through the foundation, Scott is working on a movie and documentary to honor his late grandfather. Scott called hoping Columbus would support Armstrong by dedicating a street and finding an ideal place for an Armstrong statue.
"He deserves it," Scott said. "No other fighter has done what he's done and no other fighter will."
Though still finding funds for the movie and documentary, Scott said having Columbus work with the foundation will help Armstrong's legacy continue to flourish. He hopes to have a portion of the documentary filmed in Columbus, highlighting the statue and "Henry Armstrong Way." Once the documentary is complete, he wants to premier it in Columbus.
"It means a lot to me and the family," Scott said. "This is something that we always wanted to have, for his legacy to be known. The odds he had to overcome, it was just amazing. He believed in himself. This is why we are so strongly behind definite purpose. He followed his heart and he trusted God. He was not only champion, but a triple champion."
The goal of the documentary and film projects are not only to honor Armstrong but to help the foundation's work.
"Making this documentary and this film will help us get the youth center, will help make the world a better place and help those who are under-served," Scott said. "When times get tough, I look to him. He didn't have 25 cents to his name (when he moved to California in 1932) and he didn't let that stop him. You have to fail many, many times to be successful."
Lautzenhiser said he is excited the council dedicated the street. Regarding the statue, he said the committee -- on which he serves with Mayor Robert Smith and local historian Rufus Ward -- is still working to find a suitable, public area to erect it.
"Even though Henry Armstrong has been dead a number of years, he is still very popular around the world," he said. "His story is an inspiration. What he did, what he accomplished and what he had to overcome. ... We're excited and it's the first step in this process. He really is very special. He was possibly the greatest boxer who ever lived, but he was a good man also."
Smith added he is also pleased the council agreed to honor Armstrong and looks forward to finalizing a place for his statue.
"I think it'll be a great asset for the city," Smith said. "It's great advertisement for the city and some good notoriety for Columbus that a person of this magnitude was born here in the city of Columbus that held three titles at one time."
For Scott, continuing his grandfather's work by supporting those who fall through the cracks has helped Armstrong's legacy and mission continue.
"I'm grateful," Scott said. "He traveled a lot. Being a public figure, your life is all over the place. He did provide time with us. We would have liked more time. He was a cool grandfather. I was very, very fortunate to know him and have him as a grandfather. To be able to continue his legacy is just amazing to do so. I'm humbled and honored."
1. Fiber internet coming to Lowndes County COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
2. Lowndes man killed during apparent struggle over weapon with son COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
3. Remembering Beverly Norris: The 'princess' of Columbus art COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
4. Alabama man arrested after high-speed chase from Lowndes to Pickens counties COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
5. Aldermen to consider TIF for retail center on Highway 12 STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY