Joseph Louis Barrow (May 13, 1914 – April 12, 1981), better known as Joe Louis, was the world heavyweight boxing champion from 1937 to 1949. He is considered to be one of the greatest heavyweights of all time. Nicknamed the Brown Bomber, Louis helped elevate boxing from a nadir in popularity in the post-Jack Dempsey era by establishing a reputation as an honest, hardworking fighter at a time when the sport was dominated by gambling interests. Louis's championship reign lasted 140 consecutive months, during which he participated in 27 championship fights, 26 championship fights during his reign; the 27th, against Ezzard Charles, was a challenge to Charles' heavyweight title and so is not included in Louis' reign. All in all, Joe was victorious in 25 successful title defenses, a record for the heavyweight division. In 2005, Louis was named the greatest heavyweight of all time by the International Boxing Research Organization, and was ranked number one on The Ring's list of 100 Greatest Punchers of All Time.
Louis's cultural impact was felt well outside the ring. He is widely regarded as the first African American to achieve the status of a nationwide hero within the United States, and was also a focal point of anti-Nazi sentiment leading up to and during World War II. He also was instrumental in integrating the game of golf, breaking the sport's color barrier in America by appearing under a sponsor's exemption in a PGA event in 1952.
Louis was born on May 13, 1914 in a ramshackle dwelling on Bell Chapel Road, located about a mile off Alabama's Route 50 and roughly six miles north of Lafayette in rural Chambers County, Alabama. Louis was the son of Munroe Barrow and Lillie (Reese) Barrow, and seventh of eight children. He weighed 11 pounds at birth. Both Louis's parents were the children of former slaves, alternating between sharecropping and rental farming. Munroe was predominantly African American with some white ancestry, while Lillie was half Cherokee.