Winter Premier Auction 2021


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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 4/3/2021

Bold. Confrontational. Defiant. Valiant. These words describe Muhammad Ali to a tee. He was the ultimate instigator, in and out of the ring. And while his showmanship in the heat of battle may have come off as arrogant to some, The Greatest of All Time was a very self-aware man, cognizant of his environment and principled in his convictions. He knew a little about fighting the establishment as well. After getting stripped of his heavyweight title and suspended from boxing [from 1967-70 in his athletic prime] for protesting the draft, Ali became a symbol of rebellion during one of the more controversial periods of American history. Considered an outcast by the government, he took it upon himself to stand up for other sociopolitical injustices. Just two weeks after the notorious 1969 Chappaquiddick Incident, which left Mary Jo Kopechne mysteriously dead at the hands of a privileged white Senator from America’s most prestigious family, Ali aggressively came to the young lady’s defense and handwrote this passionate letter addressed to her grieving father. First announced to the public by the Kopechne family on the 50th anniversary of the tragedy last July and carefully authenticated by multiple autograph and handwriting experts, this poweful piece of writing from the GOAT stands as one of the most fascinating hobby discoveries from the most challenging years of his life.

Never one to mince words, Ali immediately calls out Ted Kennedy--the youngest of the famous clan--for his alleged intentions of foul play on the night of July 18 in the quiet Martha’s Vineyard community. According to the married, 37-year-old father of three, it was just a car accident after which the Massachusetts Senator simply panicked. Mary Jo Kopechne had campaigned for Ted's late brother Robert during his presidential campaign in 1968 (that ended tragically) and was considered one his most important staff members. While hosting a party for the so-called "Boiler Room Girls" from Bobby's campaign, Ted left with Ms. Kopechne and said his plan was to drop her off at the ferry, but he got lost on a dark dirt road and mistakenly drove his car off a bridge. He was able to free himself from the submerged vehicle, but couldn't rescue 28-year-old Mary Jo trapped inside. After swiming ashore, he did not notify local authorities until after her body was found the next morning some ten hours later, supposedly too shaken to initially come forward.

To Ali and much of America, it sounded like hogwash--a cowardly excuse to cover up a horrific scandal of sexual misconduct and second-degree murder. He holds nothing back in his 7/31/1969 letter, urging Joseph Kopechne to “get yourself a good lawyer and sue that no good son of a bitch, Edward M. Kennedy, for everything he’s got.” The Champ then may have got a little too graphic--considering just 12 days had passed since the poor guy had lost his only child forever--when he accuses Kennedy of "illicit sexal intercourse and rape of your daughter, and since the accident was based thereon, he should be prosecuted and tried for murder." Notwithstanding the letter's language, the Kopechne family had to be grateful to get that level of moral support from a man of Ali's stature. Ultimately, Kennedy pled guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and was found "negligent" by the state, but he ended up serving no jail time and the Kopechnes opted not to chase any "blood money" either. The damage to Ted Kennedy's image and career aspirations, however, had been done. Even though he somehow kept his seat in the Senate for decades thereafter, the forever shamed man would never be a legitimate candidate to become POTUS like his late brother John.

The handwritten letter comes on a standard 8.5" by 11" sheet of white paper and is signed “Muhammad Ali” and “Cassius Clay” at the bottom in 7-8/10 black ballpoint that is perfectly consistent with the body. The Champ would not have added his original "slave" name five years after converting to Islam unless he really wanted to pound home his passion for the message and make the Kopechne family absolutely certain that it was coming from him. Easily one of the most historically significant pieces of literature ever scribed by the Louisville Lip, the letter comes straight from the Kopechne family. It includes the original envelope hand-addressed by Ali to Joseph Kopechne in Berkley Heights, NJ, postmarked “July 31, 1969 Los Angeles."

A letter of provenance from Mary Jo's cousin, William Nelson, is included. He and his mother Georgetta Potoski, Mary Jo's first cousin, were entrusted as the family spoksepersons and co-wrote the well-received 2015 book Our Mary Jo as a proper celebration of her life. (The whole saga that shocked the nation was also captured by the well-received film Chappaquiddick, starring Kate Mara, Jason Clarke and Ed Helms, which hit the big screen in 2018.) On July 18, 2019, the 50th anniverary of Mary Jo's death, the Kopechne family felt it was time for this controversial letter to finally be exposed to the public. Comes with full LOAs from PSA/DNA and Beckett authenticating both Ali’s handwriting and his two signatures. Beckett has graded the Ali and Clay autographs a perfect 10.

Estimate: $20,000+

Current Bidding (Reserve Has Been Met)
Minimum Bid: $2,500
Final prices include buyers premium.: $9,424
Number Bids: 11
Auction closed on Saturday, April 3, 2021.
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