Biographies of leaders


GREAT PEOPLE, GREAT HISTORY

Richard Branson

Sir Richard Branson
KBE
Richard Branson March 2015 (cropped).jpg

Branson at the UK Drugs Policy: Taking the Lead Internationally discussion at Chatham House, March 2015
Born Richard Charles Nicholas Branson
18 July 1950 (age 64)[1]
Blackheath, London, England
Residence Necker Island, British Virgin Islands
Occupation Founder of Virgin Group
Years active 1966–present
Net worth Increase US$5.1 billion (June 2015)[2]
Spouse(s) Kristen Tomassi (m. 1972–79)(divorced)
Joan Templeman (m. 1989)
Parent(s) Edward James Branson
Eve Branson
Relatives Grandfather, the Right Honourable Sir George Arthur Harwin Branson, was a judge of the High Court of Justice and aPrivy Councillor.

Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson, KBE (born 18 July 1950) is an English businessman and investor. He is best known as the founder of Virgin Group, which comprises more than 400 companies.[3]

At the age of sixteen his first business venture was a magazine called Student.[4] In 1970, he set up a mail-order record business. In 1972, he opened a chain of record stores, Virgin Records, later known as Virgin Megastores. Branson’s Virgin brand grew rapidly during the 1980s, as he set up Virgin Atlantic and expanded the Virgin Records music label.

According to the Forbes 2014 list of billionaires, Branson is the seventh richest citizen of the United Kingdom, with an estimated net worth of US$4.9 billion.[2]

Early life

Branson was born in Blackheath, London, the eldest of three children born to barrister Edward James Branson (1918–2011), andEve Branson (born 1924), a former ballet dancer and air hostess.[5][6] Branson has two younger sisters.[7] His grandfather, the Right Honourable Sir George Arthur Harwin Branson, was a judge of the High Court of Justice and a Privy Councillor.[8] Branson was educated at Scaitcliffe School, a prep school in Berkshire, before briefly attending Cliff View House School in Sussex.[9] Branson attended Stowe School, an independent school in Buckinghamshire until the age of sixteen.[9] Branson has dyslexia and had poor academic performance as a student, and on his last day at school, his headmaster, Robert Drayson, told him he would either end up in prison or become a millionaire.[9]

Branson’s parents were supportive of his endeavors from an early age.[10]

Career

Record business

Branson started his record business from a church where he ran The Student magazine. Branson interviewed several prominent personalities of the late 1960s for the magazine including Mick Jagger and R. D. Laing.[11] Branson advertised popular records in The Student and it was an overnight success.[12] Trading under the name “Virgin”, he sold records for considerably less than the “High Street” outlets, especially the chain W. H. Smith. Branson once said, “There is no point in starting your own business unless you do it out of a sense of frustration.” The name “Virgin” was suggested by one of Branson’s early employees because they were all new at business.[13] At the time, many products were sold under restrictive marketing agreements that limited discounting, despite efforts in the 1950s and 1960s to limit so-called resale price maintenance.[14]

Branson eventually started a record shop in Oxford Street in London. In 1971, Branson was questioned in connection with the selling of records in Virgin stores that had been declared export stock. The matter was never brought before a court and Branson agreed to repay any unpaid tax and a fine. Branson’s mother, Eve, re-mortgaged the family home to help pay the settlement.[13]

The Manor Studio, Richard Branson’s recording studio in the manor house at the village of Shipton-on-Cherwell in Oxfordshire.

Earning enough money from his record store, Branson in 1972 launched the record label Virgin Records with Nik Powell and bought a country estate north of Oxford, in which he installed a residential recording studio, The Manor Studio.[15] He leased out studio time to fledgling artists, including multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield, whose debut album Tubular Bells (1973) was the first release for Virgin Records and became a chart-topping best-seller.[16]

Virgin signed such controversial bands as the Sex Pistols, which other companies were reluctant to sign. It also won praise for exposing the public to such obscure avant-garde music as Faust and Can. Virgin Records also introduced Culture Club to the music world. In 1982, Virgin purchased the gay nightclub Heaven. In 1991, in a consortium with David Frost, Branson made an unsuccessful bid for three ITVfranchisees under the CPV-TV name. The early 1980s also saw his only attempt as a producer—on the novelty record, “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep“, by Singing Sheep in association with Doug McLean and Grace McDonald. The recording was a series of sheep baa-ing along to a drum-machine-produced track and reached number 42 in the UK charts in 1982.[17]

In 1992, to keep his airline company afloat, Branson sold the Virgin label to EMI for £500 million.[18] Branson said that he wept when the sale was completed because the record business had been the very start of the Virgin empire. In 1996 he created V2 Records to re-enter the music business, owning 5% himself.[19]

Business ventures

Branson formed Virgin Atlantic Airways in 1984, launched Virgin Mobile in 1999, and Virgin Blue in Australia (now named Virgin Australia) in 2000. He was ninth in the Sunday Times Rich List 2006, worth slightly more than £3 billion. Branson wrote in his autobiography of the decision to start an airline:

My interest in life comes from setting myself huge, apparently unachievable challenges and trying to rise above them … from the perspective of wanting to live life to the full, I felt that I had to attempt it.

In 1993, Branson took what many saw as being one of his riskier business exploits by entering into the railway business. Virgin Trains won the franchises for the former IntercityWest Coast and Cross-Country sectors of British Rail.

Virgin acquired European short-haul airline Euro Belgian Airlines in 1996 and renamed it Virgin Express. In 2006, the airline was merged with SN Brussels Airlines formingBrussels Airlines. It also started a national airline based in Nigeria, called Virgin Nigeria. Another airline, Virgin America, began flying out of San Francisco International Airport in August 2007. Branson has also developed a Virgin Cola brand and even a Virgin Vodka brand, which has not been a very successful enterprise. As a consequence of these lacklustre performers, the satirical British fortnightly magazine Private Eye has been critical of Branson and his companies (see Private Eye image caption).[20]

A series of disputes in the early 1990s caused tension between Virgin Atlantic and British Airways, which viewed Virgin as an emerging competitor. Virgin subsequently accused British Airways of poaching its passengers, hacking its computers, and leaking stories to the press that portrayed Virgin negatively. After the so-called campaign of “dirty tricks”, British Airways settled the case, giving £500,000 to Branson, a further £110,000 to his airline, and had to pay legal fees of up to £3 million. Branson distributed his compensation (the so-called “BA bonus”) among his staff.[21]

On 25 September 2004, Branson announced the signing of a deal under which a new space tourism company, Virgin Galactic, will license the technology behind Spaceship One—funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and designed by legendary American aeronautical engineer and visionary Burt Rutan—to take paying passengers into suborbitalspace. Virgin Galactic (wholly owned by Virgin Group) plans to make flights available to the public with tickets priced at US$200,000 using Scaled Composites White Knight Two.[22] At the time, Branson said that he planned to take his two children, 31-year-old Holly and 28-year-old Sam, on a trip to outer space when they ride the SpaceShipTwo rocket plane on its first public flight then planned for 2014.[23]

Branson’s next venture with the Virgin group is Virgin Fuels, which is set to respond to global warming and exploit the recent spike in fuel costs by offering a revolutionary, cheaper fuel for automobiles and, in the near future, aircraft. Branson has stated that he was formerly a global warming sceptic and was influenced in his decision by a breakfast meeting with Al Gore.[24]

On 21 September 2006, Branson pledged to invest the profits of Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Trains in research for environmentally friendly fuels. The investment is estimated to be worth $3 billion.[25][26]

On 4 July 2006, Branson sold his Virgin Mobile company to UK cable TV, broadband, and telephone company NTL/NTL:Telewest for almost £1 billion. A new company was launched with much fanfare and publicity on 8 February 2007, under the name Virgin Media. The decision to merge his Virgin Media Company with NTL was to integrate both of the companies’ compatible parts of commerce. Branson used to own three-quarters of Virgin Mobile, whereas now he owns 15 percent of the new Virgin Media company.[27]

In 2006, Branson formed Virgin Comics and Virgin Animation, an entertainment company focused on creating new stories and characters for a global audience. The company was founded with author Deepak Chopra, filmmaker Shekhar Kapur, and entrepreneurs Sharad Devarajan and Gotham Chopra. Branson also launched the Virgin Health Bankon 1 February 2007, offering parents-to-be the opportunity to store their baby’s umbilical cord blood stem cells in private and public stem-cell banks.

In June 2006, a tip-off from Virgin Atlantic led US and UK competition authorities to investigate price-fixing attempts between Virgin Atlantic and British Airways. In August 2007, British Airways was fined £271 million over the allegations. Virgin Atlantic was given immunity for tipping off the authorities and received no fine—a controversial decision the Office of Fair Trading defended as being in the public interest.[28]

On 9 February 2007, Branson announced the setting up of a new global science and technology prize—The Virgin Earth Challenge—in the belief that history has shown that prizes of this nature encourage technological advancements for the good of mankind. The Virgin Earth Challenge will award $25 million to the individual or group who are able to demonstrate a commercially viable design that will result in the net removal of anthropogenic, atmospheric greenhouse gases each year for at least ten years without countervailing harmful effects. This removal must have long-term effects and contribute materially to the stability of the Earth’s climate. Branson also announced that he would be joined in the adjudication of the prize by a panel of five judges, all world authorities in their respective fields: Al Gore, Sir Crispin Tickell, Tim Flannery, James E. Hansen, andJames Lovelock.

In July 2007, Branson purchased his Australian home, Makepeace Island, in Noosa.[29] In August 2007, Branson announced that he bought a 20-percent stake in Malaysia’sAirAsia X.[30]

Branson in April 2009 at the launch of Virgin America inOrange County, California.

On 13 October 2007, Branson’s Virgin Group sought to add Northern Rock to its empire after submitting an offer that would result in Branson personally owning 30% of the company and change the company’s name from Northern Rock to Virgin Money.[31] The Daily Mail ran a campaign against his bid and Vince Cable, financial spokesperson for Liberal Democrats’, suggested in the House of Commons that Branson’s criminal conviction for tax evasion might be felt by some as a good enough reason not to trust him with public money.[32]

On 10 January 2008, Branson’s Virgin Healthcare announced that it would open a chain of health care clinics that would offer conventional medical care alongside homoeopathic and complementary therapies, a development that was welcomed by Ben Bradshaw, the UK’s health minister.[33]

Plans where GPs could be paid for referring National Health Service (NHS) patients to private Virgin services were abandoned in June 2008. The BMA warned the plan would “damage clinical objectivity”, there would be a financial incentive for GPs to push patients toward the Virgin services at the centre.[34] Plans to take over an NHS Practice in Swindon were abandoned subsequently, in late September 2008.[35]

In February 2009, Branson’s Virgin organisation were reported as bidding to buy the former Honda Formula One team. Branson later stated an interest in Formula One, but claimed that, before the Virgin brand became involved with Honda or any other team, Formula One would have to develop a more economically efficient and environmentally responsible image. At the start of the 2009 formula one season on 28 March, it was announced that Virgin would be sponsoring the new Brawn GP team,[36] with discussions also under way about introducing a less “dirty” fuel in the medium term.[37] After the end of the season and the subsequent purchase of Brawn GP by Mercedes Benz, Branson invested in an 80% buyout of Manor Grand Prix,[38][39] with the team being renamed Virgin Racing.

Branson and Tony Fernandes, owner of Air Asia and Lotus F1 Racing, had a bet for the 2010 F1 season where the team’s boss should work on the winner’s airline during a charity flight dressed as a stewardess. Fernandes escaped as the winner of the bet, as Lotus Racing ended tenth in the championship, while Virgin Racing ended twelfth and last. Branson kept his word after losing the bet, as he served his duty as a stewardess on an Air Asia flight between Perth and Kuala Lumpur on 12 May 2013.[40]

In 2010, Branson became patron of the UK’s Gordon Bennett 2010 gas balloon race, which has 16 hydrogen balloons flying across Europe.[41]

In April 2010, Branson described the closure of large parts of European airspace owing to volcanic ash as “beyond a joke”. Some scientists later concluded that serious structural damage to aircraft could have occurred if passenger planes had continued to fly.[42]

In April 2012 Virgin Care commenced a five-year contract for provision of a range of health services which had previously been under the aegis of NHS Surrey, the local primary care trust.[43] By March 2015 Virgin Care were in charge of over 230 services nationwide.[44]

In July 2012, Branson announced plans to build an orbital space launch system, designated LauncherOne.[45] Four commercial customers have already contracted for launches and two companies are developing standardised satellite buses optimised to the design of LauncherOne, in expectation of business opportunities created by the new smallsatlauncher.[46]

In August 2012, the franchise for the West Coast Main Line, managed by Virgin Rail since 1997, came to an end. The contract was awarded to FirstGroup after a competitive tender process overseen by the Department for Transport. Branson had expressed his concerns about the tender process and questioned the validity of the business plan submitted by FirstGroup. When Virgin Rail lost the contract, Branson said he was convinced the civil servants had “got their maths wrong”. In October, after an investigation into the bidding process, the deal was scrapped. The Transport Secretary announced there were “significant technical flaws” in the process and mistakes had been made by transport staff. Virgin Rail continue to operate the West Coast line.[47]

World record attempts

A 1998 attempt at an around-the-world balloon flight by Branson, Fossett, and Lindstrand ends in the Pacific Ocean on 25 December 1998.

Branson made several world record-breaking attempts after 1985, when in the spirit of the Blue Riband he attempted the fastest Atlantic Ocean crossing. His first attempt in the “Virgin Atlantic Challenger” led to the boat capsizing in British waters and a rescue by RAF helicopter, which received wide media coverage. Some newspapers called for Branson to reimburse the government for the rescue cost. In 1986, in his “Virgin Atlantic Challenger II”, with sailing expert Daniel McCarthy, he beat the record by two hours.[4] A year later his hot air balloon “Virgin Atlantic Flyer” crossed the Atlantic.[48]

In January 1991, Branson crossed the Pacific from Japan to Arctic Canada, 6,700 miles (10,800 km), in a balloon of 2,600,000 cubic feet (74,000 m3). This broke the record, with a speed of 245 miles per hour (394 km/h).

Between 1995 and 1998 Branson, Per Lindstrand and Steve Fossett made attempts to circumnavigate the globe by balloon. In late 1998 they made a record-breaking flight from Morocco to Hawaii but were unable to complete a global flight before Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones in Breitling Orbiter 3 in March 1999.

In March 2004, Branson set a record by travelling from Dover to Calais in a Gibbs Aquada in 1 hour, 40 minutes and 6 seconds, the fastest crossing of the English Channel in an amphibious vehicle. The previous record of six hours was set by two Frenchmen.[49] The cast of Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond, attempted to break this record in an amphibious vehicle which they had constructed and, while successfully crossing the channel, did not break Branson’s record. After being intercepted by the Coast Guard and asked what their intentions were, Clarkson remarked “..our intentions are to go across the Channel faster than ‘Beardy’ Branson!”. The Coast Guard wished them good luck and left.[50]

In September 2008, Branson and his children made an unsuccessful attempt at an Eastbound record crossing of the Atlantic ocean under sail in the 99 feet (30 m) sloop Virgin Money.[51] The boat, also known as Speedboat, is owned by NYYC member Alex Jackson, who was a co-skipper on this passage, with Branson and Mike Sanderson. After 2 days, 4 hours, winds of force 7 to 9 (strong gale), and seas of 40 feet (12 m), a ‘monster wave’ destroyed the spinnaker, washed a ten-man life raft overboard and severely ripped the mainsail. She eventually continued to St. George’s, Bermuda.[52]

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Neil Alden Armstrong

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(August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012) was an American astronaut and the first person to walk on the Moon. He was also an aerospace engineer, naval aviator, test pilot, and university professor. Before becoming an astronaut, Armstrong was an officer in the U.S. Navy and served in the Korean War. After the war, he earned his bachelor’s degree at Purdue University and served as a test pilot at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics High-Speed Flight Station, now known as the Dryden Flight Research Center, where he logged over 900 flights. He later completed graduate studies at the University of Southern California.
A participant in the U.S. Air Force’s Man in Space Soonest and X-20 Dyna-Soar human spaceflight programs, Armstrong joined the NASA Astronaut Corps in 1962. He made his first space flight, as command pilot of Gemini 8, in 1966, becoming NASA’s first civilian astronaut to fly in space. On this mission, he performed the first docking of two spacecraft, with pilot David Scott.[2]
Armstrong’s second and last spaceflight was as mission commander of the Apollo 11 moon landing, in July 1969. On this mission, Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin descended to the lunar surface and spent two and a half hours exploring, while Michael Collins remained in lunar orbit in the Command Module. Along with Collins and Aldrin, Armstrong was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Richard Nixon; President Jimmy Carter presented Armstrong the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in 1978; he and his former crewmates received the Congressional Gold Medal in 2009.
Armstrong died in Cincinnati, Ohio, on August 25, 2012, at the age of 82, after complications from coronary artery bypass surgery.[3][4]

Early years

Neil Armstrong was born on August 5, 1930, to Stephen Koenig Armstrong and Viola Louise Engel in Auglaize County, near Wapakoneta, Ohio.[5][6] He was of Scottish, Irish, and German ancestry and had two younger siblings, June and Dean. Stephen Armstrong worked as an auditor[7] for the Ohio state government; the family moved around the state repeatedly after Armstrong’s birth, living in 20 towns. Neil’s love for flying grew during this time, having gotten off to an early start when his father took his two-year-old son to the Cleveland Air Races. When he was five, he experienced his first airplane flight in Warren, Ohio on July 20, 1936 when he and his father took a ride in a Ford Trimotor, also known as the “Tin Goose”.[8]
His father’s last move was in 1944, back to Neil’s birthplace, Wapakoneta, in Auglaize County. Armstrong attended Blume High School and took flying lessons at the grassy Wapakoneta airfield.[6] He earned a student flight certificate on his 16th birthday, then soloed later in August; all before he had a driver’s license.[9] Armstrong was active in the Boy Scouts and earned the rank of Eagle Scout. As an adult, he was recognized by the Boy Scouts of America with its Distinguished Eagle Scout Award and Silver Buffalo Award.[10] On July 18, 1969, while flying towards the Moon inside the Columbia, Armstrong greeted the Scouts: “I’d like to say hello to all my fellow Scouts and Scouters at Farragut State Park in Idaho having a National Jamboree there this week; and Apollo 11 would like to send them best wishes”. Houston replied: “Thank you, Apollo 11. I’m sure that, if they didn’t hear that, they’ll get the word through the news. Certainly appreciate that.”[11] Among the very few personal items that Neil Armstrong carried with him to the Moon and back was a World Scout Badge.[12]
In 1947, at age 17, Armstrong began studying aeronautical engineering at Purdue University. He was the second person in his family to attend college. He was also accepted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The only engineer he knew (who had attended MIT) dissuaded him from attending, telling Armstrong that it was not necessary to go all the way to Cambridge, Massachusetts, for a good education.[13] His college tuition was paid for under the Holloway Plan: successful applicants committed to two years of study, followed by three years of service in the U.S. Navy, then completion of the final two years of the degree. At Purdue, he earned average marks in his subjects, with a GPA that rose and fell during eight semesters. He was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering in 1955, and a Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Southern California in 1970.[1] Armstrong was later awarded honorary doctorates by several universities.[14]

Navy service

Armstrong’s call-up from the Navy arrived on January 26, 1949, requiring him to report to Naval Air Station Pensacola for flight training at age 18. This lasted almost 18 months, during which he qualified for carrier landing aboard the USS Cabot and USS Wright. On August 16, 1950, two weeks after his 20th birthday, Armstrong was informed by letter that he was a fully qualified Naval Aviator.[15]
His first assignment was to Fleet Aircraft Service Squadron 7 at NAS San Diego (now known as NAS North Island). Two months later he was assigned to Fighter Squadron 51 (VF-51), an all-jet squadron, and made his first flight in a jet, an F9F-2B Panther, on January 5, 1951. In June, he made his first jet carrier landing on the USS Essex and was promoted the same week from Midshipman to Ensign. By the end of the month, the Essex had set sail with VF-51 aboard, bound for Korea, where its VF-51 would act as ground-attack aircraft.[16]

Armstrong first saw action in the Korean War on August 29, 1951, as an escort for a photo reconnaissance plane over Songjin.[17] Five days later on September 3, he flew armed reconnaissance over the primary transportation and storage facilities south of the village of Majon-ni, west of Wonsan. While making a low bombing run at about 350 mph (560 km/h), Armstrong’s F9F Panther was hit by anti-aircraft fire. While trying to regain control, he collided with a pole at a height of about 20 feet (6 m), which sliced off about three feet (1 m) of the Panther’s right wing.[18] Armstrong flew the plane back to friendly territory, but due to the loss of the aileron, ejection was his only safe option. He planned to eject over water and await rescue by Navy helicopters, and therefore flew to an airfield near Pohang, but his ejection seat was blown back over land.[19] A jeep driven by a roommate from flight school picked Armstrong up; it is unknown what happened to the wreckage of No. 125122 F9F-2.[20]
Armstrong first saw action in the Korean War on August 29, 1951, as an escort for a photo reconnaissance plane over Songjin.[17] Five days later on September 3, he flew armed reconnaissance over the primary transportation and storage facilities south of the village of Majon-ni, west of Wonsan. While making a low bombing run at about 350 mph (560 km/h), Armstrong’s F9F Panther was hit by anti-aircraft fire. While trying to regain control, he collided with a pole at a height of about 20 feet (6 m), which sliced off about three feet (1 m) of the Panther’s right wing.[18] Armstrong flew the plane back to friendly territory, but due to the loss of the aileron, ejection was his only safe option. He planned to eject over water and await rescue by Navy helicopters, and therefore flew to an airfield near Pohang, but his ejection seat was blown back over land.[19] A jeep driven by a roommate from flight school picked Armstrong up; it is unknown what happened to the wreckage of No. 125122 F9F-2.[20]
Armstrong flew 78 missions over Korea for a total of 121 hours in the air, most of which were in January 1952. He received the Air Medal for 20 combat missions, a Gold Star for the next 20, and the Korean Service Medal and Engagement Star.[21] Armstrong left the Navy at age 22 on August 23, 1952, and became a Lieutenant, Junior Grade, in the U.S. Naval Reserve. He remained in the reserve for eight years, then resigned his commission on October 21, 1960.[22]
As a research pilot, Armstrong served as project pilot on the F-100 Super Sabre A and C variants, F-101 Voodoo, and the Lockheed F-104A Starfighter. He also flew the Bell X-1B, Bell X-5, North American X-15, F-105 Thunderchief, F-106 Delta Dart, B-47 Stratojet, KC-135 Stratotanker, and was one of eight elite pilots involved in the paraglider research vehicle program (Paresev).

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Astronaut career
Armstrong in an early Gemini spacesuit

In 1958, he was selected for the U.S. Air Force’s Man In Space Soonest program. In November 1960, Armstrong was chosen as part of the pilot consultant group for the X-20 Dyna-Soar, a military space plane under development by Boeing for the U.S. Air Force, and on March 15, 1962, he was selected by the U.S. Air Force as one of seven pilot-engineers who would fly the space plane when it got off the design board.[41]
In the months after the announcement that applications were being sought for the second group of NASA astronauts, Armstrong became more and more excited about the prospects of both the Apollo program and of investigating a new aeronautical environment. Armstrong’s astronaut application arrived about a week past the June 1, 1962, deadline. Dick Day, with whom Armstrong had worked closely at Edwards, saw the late arrival of the application and slipped it into the pile before anyone noticed.[42] At Brooks Air Force Base at the end of June, Armstrong underwent a medical exam that many of the applicants described as painful and at times seemingly pointless.[43]
Deke Slayton called Armstrong on September 13, 1962, and asked whether he would be interested in joining the NASA Astronaut Corps as part of what the press dubbed “the New Nine”; without hesitation, Armstrong said yes. The selections were kept secret until three days later, although newspaper reports had been circulating since earlier that year that he would be selected as the “first civilian astronaut.”[44] Armstrong was one of two civilian pilots selected for the second group; the other was Elliot See, also a former naval aviator.[45] See was scheduled to command Gemini 9, but died in a T-38 crash in 1966 that also took the life of crewmate Charles Bassett. Armstrong was the first American civilian in space, but the first civilian was Valentina Tereshkova of the Soviet Union, nearly three years earlier. A textile worker and amateur parachutist, she was aboard Vostok 6 when it launched on June 16, 1963.

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President Barrack Obama
220px-President_Barack_Obama

44th President of the United States
Incumbent
Assumed office
January 20, 2009

Personal details
Born Barack Hussein Obama II
August 4, 1961 (age 52)
Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.
Political party: Democratic
Spouse(s): Michelle Robinson (m. 1992)
Children: Malia (b. 1998), Sasha (b. 2001)
Residence: White House (official)
Chicago, Illinois (private)
Alma mater: Occidental College
Columbia University (B.A.)
Harvard Law School (J.D.)
Profession: Community organizer
Lawyer
Constitutional law professor
Religion: Christian
Awards: Nobel Peace Prize

Barack Hussein Obama II (i/bəˈrɑːk huːˈseɪn oʊˈbɑːmə/; born August 4, 1961) is the 44th and current President of the United States, the first African American to hold the office. Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, Obama is a graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, where he was president of the Harvard Law Review. He was a community organizer in Chicago before earning his law degree. He worked as a civil rights attorney in Chicago and taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School from 1992 to 2004. He served three terms representing the 13th District in the Illinois Senate from 1997 to 2004, running unsuccessfully for the United States House of Representatives in 2000.
In 2004, Obama received national attention during his campaign to represent Illinois in the United States Senate with his victory in the March Democratic Party primary, his keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in July, and his election to the Senate in November. He began his presidential campaign in 2007, and in 2008, after a close primary campaign against Hillary Rodham Clinton, he won sufficient delegates in the Democratic Party primaries to receive the presidential nomination. He then defeated Republican nominee John McCain in the general election, and was inaugurated as president on January 20, 2009. Nine months later, Obama was named the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize laureate. He was re-elected president in November 2012, defeating Republican nominee Mitt Romney, and was sworn in for a second term on January 20, 2013.
Early in his first term in office, Obama signed into law economic stimulus legislation in response to the Great Recession in the form of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010. Other major domestic initiatives in his presidency include the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often referred to as “Obamacare”; the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act; the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010; the Budget Control Act of 2011; and the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012. In May 2012, he became the first sitting U.S. president to publicly support same-sex marriage and in 2013 his administration filed briefs which urged the Supreme Court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 and California’s Proposition 8 as unconstitutional. In foreign policy, Obama ended U.S. military involvement in the Iraq War, increased troop levels in Afghanistan, signed the New START arms control treaty with Russia, ordered U.S. military involvement in Libya, and ordered the military operation that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden.

Early life and career

Main articles: Family of Barack Obama and Early life and career of Barack Obama
Obama was born on August 4, 1961,[1] at Kapiʻolani Maternity & Gynecological Hospital (now Kapiʻolani Medical Center for Women and Children) in Honolulu, Hawaii,[2][3][4] and is the first President to have been born in Hawaii.[5] His mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, was born in Wichita, Kansas, and was of mostly English ancestry.[6] His father, Barack Obama, Sr., was a Luo from Nyang’oma Kogelo, Kenya. Obama’s parents met in 1960 in a Russian class at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, where his father was a foreign student on scholarship.[7][8] The couple married in Wailuku on Maui on February 2, 1961,[9][10] and separated when Obama’s mother moved with their newborn son to Seattle, Washington, in late August 1961, to attend the University of Washington for one year. In the meantime, Obama, Sr. completed his undergraduate economics degree in Hawaii in June 1962, then left to attend graduate school at Harvard University on a scholarship. Obama’s parents divorced in March 1964.[11] Obama Sr. returned to Kenya in 1964 where he remarried; he visited Barack in Hawaii only once, in 1971.[12] He died in an automobile accident in 1982.[13]
In 1963, Dunham met Lolo Soetoro, an Indonesian East–West Center graduate student in geography at the University of Hawaii, and the couple were married on Molokai on March 15, 1965.[14] After two one-year extensions of his J-1 visa, Lolo returned to Indonesia in 1966, followed sixteen months later by his wife and stepson in 1967, with the family initially living in a Menteng Dalam neighborhood in the Tebet subdistrict of south Jakarta, then from 1970 in a wealthier neighborhood in the Menteng subdistrict of central Jakarta.[15] From ages six to ten, Obama attended local Indonesian-language schools: St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School for two years and Besuki Public School for one and a half years, supplemented by English-language Calvert School homeschooling by his mother.[16]

Obama with his half-sister Maya Soetoro-Ng, mother Ann Dunham and grandfather Stanley Dunham, in Honolulu, Hawaii
In 1971, Obama returned to Honolulu to live with his maternal grandparents, Madelyn and Stanley Dunham, and with the aid of a scholarship attended Punahou School, a private college preparatory school, from fifth grade until his graduation from high school in 1979.[17] Obama lived with his mother and sister in Hawaii for three years from 1972 to 1975 while his mother was a graduate student in anthropology at the University of Hawaii.[18] Obama chose to stay in Hawaii with his grandparents for high school at Punahou when his mother and sister returned to Indonesia in 1975 to begin anthropology field work.[19] His mother spent most of the next two decades in Indonesia, divorcing Lolo in 1980 and earning a PhD in 1992, before dying in 1995 in Hawaii following treatment for ovarian cancer and uterine cancer.[20]
Of his early childhood, Obama recalled, “That my father looked nothing like the people around me—that he was black as pitch, my mother white as milk—barely registered in my mind.”[8] He described his struggles as a young adult to reconcile social perceptions of his multiracial heritage.[21] Reflecting later on his years in Honolulu, Obama wrote: “The opportunity that Hawaii offered—to experience a variety of cultures in a climate of mutual respect—became an integral part of my world view, and a basis for the values that I hold most dear.”[22] Obama has also written and talked about using alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine during his teenage years to “push questions of who I was out of my mind”.[23] Obama was also a member of the “choom gang”, a self-named group of friends that spent time together and occasionally smoked marijuana.[24][25]
Following high school, Obama moved to Los Angeles in 1979 to attend Occidental College. In February 1981, he made his first public speech, calling for Occidental to divest from South Africa in response to its policy of apartheid.[26] In mid-1981, Obama traveled to Indonesia to visit his mother and half-sister Maya, and visited the families of college friends in Pakistan and India for three weeks.[26] Later in 1981, he transferred to Columbia College, Columbia University in New York City, where he majored in political science with a specialty in international relations[27] and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1983. He worked for a year at the Business International Corporation,[28] then at the New York Public Interest Research Group.[29][30]

Chicago community organizer and Harvard Law School
Two years after graduating, Obama was hired in Chicago as director of the Developing Communities Project (DCP), a church-based community organization originally comprising eight Catholic parishes in Roseland, West Pullman, and Riverdale on Chicago’s South Side. He worked there as a community organizer from June 1985 to May 1988.[30][31] He helped set up a job training program, a college preparatory tutoring program, and a tenants’ rights organization in Altgeld Gardens.[32] Obama also worked as a consultant and instructor for the Gamaliel Foundation, a community organizing institute.[33] In mid-1988, he traveled for the first time in Europe for three weeks and then for five weeks in Kenya, where he met many of his paternal relatives for the first time.[34][35] He returned to Kenya in 1992 with his fiancée Michelle and his half-sister Auma.[34][36] He returned to Kenya in August 2006 for a visit to his father’s birthplace, a village near Kisumu in rural western Kenya.[37]
In late 1988, Obama entered Harvard Law School. He was selected as an editor of the Harvard Law Review at the end of his first year,[38] and president of the journal in his second year.[32][39] During his summers, he returned to Chicago, where he worked as an associate at the law firms of Sidley Austin in 1989 and Hopkins & Sutter in 1990.[40] After graduating with a J.D. magna cum laude[41] from Harvard in 1991, he returned to Chicago.[38] Obama’s election as the first black president of the Harvard Law Review gained national media attention[32][39] and led to a publishing contract and advance for a book about race relations,[42] which evolved into a personal memoir. The manuscript was published in mid-1995 as Dreams from My Father.[42]

University of Chicago Law School and civil rights attorney
In 1991, Obama accepted a two-year position as Visiting Law and Government Fellow at the University of Chicago Law School to work on his first book.[42][43] He then taught at the University of Chicago Law School for twelve years—as a Lecturer from 1992 to 1996, and as a Senior Lecturer from 1996 to 2004—teaching constitutional law.[44]
From April to October 1992, Obama directed Illinois’s Project Vote, a voter registration campaign with ten staffers and seven hundred volunteer registrars; it achieved its goal of registering 150,000 of 400,000 unregistered African Americans in the state, leading Crain’s Chicago Business to name Obama to its 1993 list of “40 under Forty” powers to be.[45]
In 1993, he joined Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland, a 13-attorney law firm specializing in civil rights litigation and neighborhood economic development, where he was an associate for three years from 1993 to 1996, then of counsel from 1996 to 2004. His law license became inactive in 2007.[46][47]
From 1994 to 2002, Obama served on the boards of directors of the Woods Fund of Chicago, which in 1985 had been the first foundation to fund the Developing Communities Project; and of the Joyce Foundation.[30] He served on the board of directors of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge from 1995 to 2002, as founding president and chairman of the board of directors from 1995 to 1999.[30]
Legislative career: 1997–2008

State Senator: 1997–2004
Obama was elected to the Illinois Senate in 1996, succeeding State Senator Alice Palmer as Senator from Illinois’s 13th District, which at that time spanned Chicago South Side neighborhoods from Hyde Park – Kenwood south to South Shore and west to Chicago Lawn.[48] Once elected, Obama gained bipartisan support for legislation that reformed ethics and health care laws.[49] He sponsored a law that increased tax credits for low-income workers, negotiated welfare reform, and promoted increased subsidies for childcare.[50] In 2001, as co-chairman of the bipartisan Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, Obama supported Republican Governor Ryan’s payday loan regulations and predatory mortgage lending regulations aimed at averting home foreclosures.[51]
Obama was reelected to the Illinois Senate in 1998, defeating Republican Yesse Yehudah in the general election, and was reelected again in 2002.[52] In 2000, he lost a Democratic primary race for Illinois’s 1st congressional district in the United States House of Representatives to four-term incumbent Bobby Rush by a margin of two to one.[53]
In January 2003, Obama became chairman of the Illinois Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee when Democrats, after a decade in the minority, regained a majority.[54] He sponsored and led unanimous, bipartisan passage of legislation to monitor racial profiling by requiring police to record the race of drivers they detained, and legislation making Illinois the first state to mandate videotaping of homicide interrogations.[50][55] During his 2004 general election campaign for U.S. Senate, police representatives credited Obama for his active engagement with police organizations in enacting death penalty reforms.[56] Obama resigned from the Illinois Senate in November 2004 following his election to the U.S. Senate.[57]

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Source: Wikipedia

Farrah Gray

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Farrah Gray is an American businessman, investor, philanthropist, author, syndicated columnist, and motivational speaker. He was named as one of the most influential black men in America by the National Urban League. He was raised in Chicago’s South side. He began his entrepreneurial career at the age of six selling homemade lotion and hand-painted rocks door-to-door. He is the CEO of Farrah Gray Publishing.

Honors

The Network Journal Under-Forty Class award (2008)[1]
The Urban Business Roundtable’s Top 40 Game-Changers (2010)[2]
Famous Black Entrepreneurs list (#5)[3]
Trumpet Award (2010)

Books

Reallionaire: Nine Steps of Becoming Rich on the Inside Out Fran Harris 2005 HCI ISBN 0-7573-0224-6 / ISBN 978-0-7573-0224-4
Get Real, Get Rich 2007 Dutton ISBN 0-525-95044-3 / ISBN 978-0-525-95044-8
The Truth Shall Make You Rich: The New Road Map to Radical Prosperity 2009 Plume ISBN 0-452-29017-1 / ISBN 978-0-452-29017-4

Source: Wikipedia

Aliko Dangote

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Born 10 April 1957

Kano, Nigeria
Residence: Lagos, Nigeria
Nationality: Nigeria
Ethnicity: Hausa
Citizenship: Nigeria
Education: Business Studies, Al-Azhar University, Cairo
Occupation: Chairman & CEO, Dangote Group
Years active: 1977—present
Net worth: US$ 20 billion (2013)[1]
Title: Alhaji
Religion: Islam
Parents: Mariya Sanusi Dantata (mother), Mohammed Dangote (father)

Alhaji Aliko Dangote, MFR, GCON (born 10 April 1957, Kano, Nigeria) is a Nigerian self-made business magnate, with an estimated net worth of $20.1 billion USD as of March 2013.[3] Based in Nigeria, he is the owner of the Dangote Group, which has interests in commodities with operations in his homeland and several other countries in Africa, including Benin, Cameroon, Togo, Ghana, South Africa and Zambia.

Dangote is ranked by Forbes Magazine as the 43rd richest person in the world and the richest man in Africa.

Early life

Alhaji Aliko Dangote, a notherner, precisely from Kano State, Nigeria was born on the 10th of April 1957 into a wealthy Muslim family. Dangote, right from when he was young had an eye on business. He said, “I can remember when I was in primary school, I would go and buy cartons of sweets [sugar boxes] and I would start selling them just to make money. I was so interested in business, even at that time.” He studied business from the Al Azhar University, Cairo in Egypt,and thereafter returned to Nigeria to work with his uncle Sanusi Abdulkadir Dantata. The uncle afterwards gave him a loan of =N=500,000 (Naira)when he was just 21 years old to start a business.

Business career

The Dangote Group which started as a small trading firm was established in the year 1977. Today, it is no longer small but now a multi-trillion naira conglomerate with many of its operations in Benin, Ghana, Nigeria, and Togo. At present, Dangote has enlarged his line of businesses to also cover food processing, cement manufacturing, and freight. It is important to point out here that, Dangote Group also dominates the sugar market in Nigeria. As a matter of fact, it is the major sugar supplier to the country’s soft drink companies, breweries, and confectioners. Besides these achievements, Dangote Group has also moved from being a trading company to being the largest industrial group in Nigeria and these include: Dangote Sugar Refinery, Dangote Cement, and Dangote Flour just to mention but a few.

As per what qualities a business man should possess, Aliko Dangote possesses a knack for seeing opportunities beyond the naked eyes that others can never see. This is because, in the month of July 2012, he approached the Nigerian Ports Authority with the idea of leasing an abandoned piece of land at the Apapa Port, which was welcomed and approved. He later went to build facilities for his flour company there. So also in the 90’s, he approached the Central Bank of Nigeria with the idea that it would be cheaper for the bank to allow his transport company to manage their fleet of staff buses which was also approved.

In Nigeria as of today, Dangote Group with its dominance in the sugar market and Sugar Refinery is the main supplier (70% of the market) to the country’s soft drinks companies, breweries and confectioners. It is indeed, the largest refinery in Africa and the third largest in the world producing 800,000 tonnes of sugar annually. Apart from these, Dangote Group owns salt factories and flour mills and also being a major importer of rice, fish, pasta, cement and fertilizer. The company exports cotton, cashew nuts, cocoa, sesame seed and ginger to several countries. It also has major investments in real estate, banking, transport, textiles and oil and gas. The company employs over 11,000 people and is the largest industrial conglomerate in the whole of West Africa.

Dangote is also exploring into telecommunications and has started building 14,000 kilometres of fibre optic cables to supply the whole of Nigeria and as a result, he was honoured in January 2009 as the leading provider of employment in the Nigerian construction industry.

He said, “Let me tell you this and I want to really emphasize it…nothing is going to help Nigeria like Nigerians bringing back their money. If you give me $5 billion today, I will invest everything here in Nigeria. Let us put our heads together and work.”

As far as politics is concerned in Nigeria, Dangote played a very prominent role in the funding of Obasanjo’s re-election bid in 2003, to which he gave over N200 million (US$2M). He also contributed N50 million (US$0.5M) to the National Mosque under the aegis of “Friends of Obasanjo and Atiku”. Further more, he also contributed N200 million to the Presidential Library. These highly controversial gifts to the members of the ruling Party[PDP] have generated a lot of concerns despite highly-publicized anti-corruption drives during Obasanjo’s second term.
On the 23rd of May 2010, Britain’s Daily Mirror published it that, Dangote was interested in buying a 16 percent stake in Premiership side Arsenal belonging to Lady Nina Bracewell-Smith. Dangote later denied these rumors.
Therefore, On the 14th of November, 2011, Dangote was awarded a National Honour, the Nigeria’s second highest honour, Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON) by the President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan.

Charity

Dangote has reportedly given away $100 million of his fortune to charity in recent years. Causes he supports include flood relief, healthcare, and poverty reduction.

Source: Wikipedia

Muhammad Ali

 

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Statistics
Nickname(s): The Greatest
The People’s Champion
The Louisville Lip

Rated at Heavyweight

Height 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)

Reach 80 in (203 cm)

Nationality: American

Born January 17, 1942, Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.

Boxing record
Total fights 61
Wins 56
Wins by KO 37
Losses 5
Draws 0
No contests 0

Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., January 17, 1942) is an American former professional boxer, generally considered among the greatest heavyweights in the sport’s history. A controversial and even polarizing figure during his early career, Ali is today widely regarded not only for the skills he displayed in the ring but for the values he exemplified outside of it: religious freedom, racial justice and the triumph of principle over expedience.[1][2] He is one of the most recognized sports figures of the past 100 years, crowned “Sportsman of the Century” by Sports Illustrated and “Sports Personality of the Century” by the BBC.[3][4]

Born Cassius Clay, at the age of 22 he won the world heavyweight championship in 1964 from Sonny Liston in a stunning upset. Shortly after that bout, Ali joined the Nation of Islam and changed his name. He subsequently converted to Sunni Islam in 1975, and later to Sufism.

In 1967, three years after winning the heavyweight title, Ali refused to be conscripted into the U.S. military, citing his religious beliefs and opposition to the Vietnam War. He was eventually arrested and found guilty on draft evasion charges and stripped of his boxing title. He did not fight again for nearly four years—losing a time of peak performance in an athlete’s career. Ali’s appeal worked its way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, where in 1971 his conviction was overturned.

Ali would go on to become the first and only three-time lineal World Heavyweight Champion.
Nicknamed “The Greatest”, Ali was involved in several historic boxing matches.[5] Notable among these were the first Liston fight, three with rival Joe Frazier, considered among the greatest in boxing history, and one with George Foreman, where he regained titles he had been stripped of seven years earlier.

Ali revolutionized the sport by the sheer power and magnetism of his personality. At a time when most fighters let their managers do the talking, Ali was articulate, witty and loquacious. He easily controlled press conferences and interviews, spoke freely and intelligently about issues unrelated to boxing and wrote rhymes that humorously denigrated his opponents and predicted the round in which “they must fall.”

Early life and amateur career

Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., was born on January 17, 1942, in Louisville, Kentucky.[6] The older of two boys, he was named after his father, Cassius Marcellus Clay, Sr., who was named after the 19th century abolitionist and politician of the same name. His father painted billboards and signs,[6] and his mother, Odessa O’Grady Clay, was a household domestic. Although Cassius Sr. was a Methodist, he allowed Odessa to bring up both Cassius and his younger brother Rudolph “Rudy” Clay (later renamed Rahman Ali) as Baptists.[7] He is a descendant of pre-Civil War era American slaves in the American South, and is predominantly of African-American descent, with Irish and English ancestry.[8]
Clay was first directed toward boxing by Louisville police officer and boxing coach Joe E. Martin,[9] who encountered the 12-year-old fuming over a thief taking his bicycle. He told the officer he was going to “whup” the thief. The officer told him he better learn how to box first.[10] For the last four years of Clay’s amateur career he was trained by boxing cutman Chuck Bodak.[11]

Clay won six Kentucky Golden Gloves titles, two national Golden Gloves titles, an Amateur Athletic Union National Title, and the Light Heavyweight gold medal in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome.[12] Clay’s amateur record was 100 wins with five losses. Shortly after his return home from Rome following the Olympics, Ali would claim in his 1975 autobiography that he threw his medal into the Ohio River after he and a friend of his were being refused service at a “whites-only” restaurant, and fighting with a white gang. The story has since been been heavily debated and several of Ali’s friends from photographer Howard Bingham to Budini Brown denied it. Brown later told Sports Illustrated writer Mark Kram, “Honkies sure bought into that one!” Thomas Hauser’s biography of Ali confirmed that Ali was refused service at the diner but that Ali lost his medal a year after he won it. Ali later received a replacement medal at a basketball intermission during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, where he lit the torch to start the games.

Early career
Clay made his professional debut on October 29, 1960, winning a six-round decision over Tunney Hunsaker. From then until 1963, Clay amassed a record of 19–0 with 15 wins by knockout. He defeated boxers including Tony Esperti, Jim Robinson, Donnie Fleeman, Alonzo Johnson, George Logan, Willi Besmanoff, Lamar Clark, Doug Jones and Henry Cooper.

Clay was knocked down during this early run both by Sonny Banks and Henry Cooper. In the Cooper fight Clay was saved by the bell in the fourth round. The ten-round decision over Doug Jones in March, 1963 was loudly booed by those in attendance, and was later named “Fight of the Year.” Clay also beat his former trainer and veteran boxer Archie Moore in a 1962 match. After Clay left Moore’s camp in 1960 partially due to Clay refusing to do chores such as dishwashing and sweeping, he hired Angelo Dundee, whom he had met in February 1957 during Ali’s amateur career,[13] to be his trainer. Around this time, Clay sought longtime idol Sugar Ray Robinson to be his manager, but was rebuffed.

Heavyweight Champion
Muhammad Ali versus Sonny Liston
By late 1963 Clay had became the top contender for Sonny Liston’s title. The fight was set for February 25, 1964 in Miami. Liston was an intimidating personality, a dominating fighter with a criminal past and ties to the mob. Based on Clay’s uninspired performance against Jones and Cooper in his previous two fights, and Liston’s seeming invincibility, Clay was a 7–1 underdog. Despite this, Clay taunted Liston during the buildup by dubbing him “the big ugly bear.” “Liston even smells like a bear,” Clay said. “After I beat him I’m going to donate him to the zoo.” He declared that he would “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee,” and, summarizing his strategy for avoiding Liston’s assaults, said, “Your hands can’t hit what your eyes can’t see.” Clay turned the pre-fight weigh-in into a circus, shouting at Liston that “someone is going to die at ringside tonight.” Nothing like this had ever occurred in the history of boxing. Clay’s pulse rate was around 120, more than double his norm of 54.[14] Liston, among others, thought this stemmed from extreme fear and some commentators wondered if he would even show up for the bout.
The outcome of the fight was one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. Clay’s superior speed and reflexes were evident from the start, and he took contol of the fight in the third round, when he buckled Liston’s knees with a combination. The only exception was round five, when Clay had trouble seeing. It has been speculated that the problem was due to ointment on Liston’s gloves, perhaps deliberately applied by his corner.[14] Though not confirmed, Bert Sugar claimed that at least two of Liston’s opponents also complained about their eyes ‘burning'”.[15]

Despite Liston’s attempts to knock Clay out in the fifth, Clay was able to escape Liston’s attack until sweat and tears rinsed the substance from his eyes. Clay to respond with a flurry of combinations near the end of the round. In the sixth Clay dominated. When Liston refused to answer the bell for the seventh round, Clay was declared the winner by TKO. Liston would later state that he had injured his shoulder. Following the win, a triumphant Clay rushed to the edge of the ring and, pointing to the ringside press, shouted “eat your words!” During the now-infamous in-ring interview following the match, Clay shouted “I shook up the world! I talk to God every day. I must be ‘The Greatest’!”
When Clay won, he became the youngest boxer (22 years old) to take the title from a reigning heavyweight champion, though Floyd Patterson was the youngest to win the heavyweight championship at 21, during an elimination bout following Rocky Marciano’s retirement. In 1986, 20 year-old Mike Tyson later broke both records when he defeated Trevor Berbick to win the heavyweight title.

Clay, now having changed his name to Muhammad Ali following his conversion to Islam and affiliation with the Nation of Islam, met Liston for a rematch in Lewiston, Maine in May of the following year. The fight proved to be as controversial as the first was shocking. Midway through the first round, Liston was knocked down by a punch later dubbed by the press as the “phantom punch”. For approximately 10 seconds after Liston was down, Ali refused to retreat to a neutral corner, and referee Jersey Joe Walcott did not begin the count until Ali did so. Liston rose unsteadily after he had been down about 20 seconds, and the fight momentarily continued. But suddenly Walcott reversed himself and stopped the match, declaring Ali the winner by knockout. The entire fight lasted less than two minutes. [16]

Rumors speculated almost immediately after the fight that Liston dropped to the ground purposely due to threats from NOI extremists, or that he had bet against himself and “took a dive” to pay off debts. Neither of these allegations have ever been proven.
Ali’s second title defense was against Floyd Patterson, former heavyweight champion who had lost twice to Liston in first round knockouts. Ali dubbed Patterson a “white man’s champion” and taunted him with the name “Rabbit.” At times during the fight, Ali appeared to toy with Patterson, refusing, for example, to throw a single punch in the first round and easily avoiding Patterson’s lunging “kangaroo punch.” Ali won a 12 round TKO. Patterson later said that he strained his sacroiliac, a statement supported by video of the fight, which made it difficult for him to escape Ali’s punches.

Ali and then-WBA heavyweight champion boxer Ernie Terrell had agreed to meet for a bout in Chicago on March 29, 1966 but the Illinois Athletic Commission refused to host the fight due to Ali’s Vietnam War statements.[17]
Following the Patterson bouts, Ali traveled to Canada and Europe and won championship bouts against George Chuvalo, Henry Cooper, Brian London and Karl Mildenberger.
Ali returned to the United States to fight Cleveland Williams in the Houston Astrodome. According to Sports Illustrated, the bout drew a then-indoor world record of 35,460. The fight was considered the toughest since the first Liston bout, but Ali ended up beating Williams in a third round TKO in what some consider the finest boxing exhibition of his career. Williams himself was recovering from being shot at point-blank range by a Texas policeman a year and a half before, resulting in the loss of one kidney and 10 feet (3.0 m) of his small intestine.
Ali and Terrell finally met in Houston on February 6, 1967. Terrell would defy Ali’s order to call him by his Muslim name; the two almost came to blows over the point in a pre-fight interview with Howard Cosell. Ali seemed intent on humiliating Terrell. “I want to torture him,” Ali said. “A clean knockout is too good for him.”.[18] The fight was close until the seventh round when Ali bloodied Terrell and almost knocked him out. In the eighth round, Ali taunted Terrell, hitting him and shouting between punches, “What’s my name, Uncle Tom… what’s my name?” Ali was unable to knock out Terrell, winning a unanimous 15 round decision. Because of Ali’s behavior and apparent intent to prolong to fight to inflict maximum punishment, critics described the bout as “one of the ugliest boxing fights”. Tex Maule later wrote: “It was a wonderful demonstration of boxing skill and a barbarous display of cruelty.” Ali denied he intended to harm Terrell on purpose nor did he feel he was cruel to Terrell during the bout. But the fight provided more fuel for Ali critics.

After his title defense against Zora Folley a month later, Ali’s title was stripped following his refusal to be drafted to Army service.[6] His boxing license was suspended and later he was sentenced to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine for draft evasion.

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Wole Soyinka

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Akinwande Oluwole “Wole” Șoyinka (surname pronounced “Shoyinka”) (born 13 July 1934) is a Nigerian writer, notable especially as a playwright and poet; he was awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize in Literature, the first person in Africa and the diaspora to be so honoured.
Soyinka was born into a Yoruba family in Abeokuta. After study in Nigeria and the UK, he worked with the Royal Court Theatre in London. He went on to write plays that were produced in both countries, in theatres and on radio. He took an active role in Nigeria’s political history and its struggle for independence from Great Britain. In 1965, he seized the Western Nigeria Broadcasting Service studio and broadcast a demand for the cancellation of the Western Nigeria Regional Elections. In 1967 during the Nigerian Civil War, he was arrested by the federal government of General Yakubu Gowon and put in solitary confinement for two years.[1]
Soyinka has strongly criticised many Nigerian military dictators, especially late General Sanni Abacha, as well as other political tyrannies, including the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe. Much of his writing has been concerned with “the oppressive boot and the irrelevance of the colour of the foot that wears it”.[citation needed] During the regime of General Sani Abacha (1993–98), Soyinka escaped from Nigeria via the “Nadeco Route” on a motorcycle. Living abroad, mainly in the United States, he was a professor first at Cornell University and then at Emory University in Atlanta, where in 1996 he was appointed Robert W. Woodruff Professor of the Arts. Abacha proclaimed a death sentence against him “in absentia”. With civilian rule restored to Nigeria in 1999, Soyinka returned to his nation. He has also taught at the universities of Oxford, Harvard and Yale.
From 1975 to 1999, he was a Professor of Comparative Literature at the Obafemi Awolowo University, then called the University of Ife. With civilian rule restored in 1999, he was made professor emeritus.[1] Soyinka has been a Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. In the fall of 2007 he was appointed Professor in Residence at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California, US.[1]

Early life and education
A Remo family of Isara-Remo, Soyinka was born the second of six children, in the city of Abẹokuta, Ogun State in Nigeria, at that time a British dominion. His father, Samuel Ayodele Soyinka (whom he called S.A. or “Essay”), was an Anglican minister and the headmaster of St. Peters School in Abẹokuta. Soyinka’s mother, Grace Eniola Soyinka (whom he dubbed the “Wild Christian”), owned a shop in the nearby market. She was a political activist within the women’s movement in the local community. She was also Anglican. As much of the community followed indigenous Yorùbá religious tradition, Soyinka grew up in an atmosphere of religious syncretism, with influences from both cultures. While he was raised in a religious family, Soyinka himself was an atheist.[2] His father’s position enabled him to get electricity and radio at home.

Mother was one of the most prominent members of the influential Ransome-Kuti family: she was the daughter of Rev. Canon JJ Ransome-Kuti, and sister to Olusegun Azariah Ransome-Kuti and Oludotun Ransome-Kuti. Among Soyinka’s cousins were the musician Fela Kuti, the human rights activist Beko Ransome-Kuti, politician Olikoye Ransome-Kuti and activist Yemisi Ransome-Kuti.[3]

In 1940, after attending St. Peters Primary School in Abeokuta, Soyinka went to Abẹokuta Grammar School, where he won several prizes for literary composition. In 1946 he was accepted by Government College in Ibadan, at that time one of Nigeria’s elite secondary schools.

After finishing his course at Government College in 1952, he began studies at University College in Ibadan (1952–54), affiliated with the University of London. He studied English literature, Greek, and Western history. In the year 1953–54, his second and last at University College, Ibadan, Soyinka began work on “Keffi’s Birthday Threat,” a short radio play for Nigerian Broadcasting Service. It was broadcast in July 1954. While at university, Soyinka and six others founded the Pyrates Confraternity, an anti-corruption and justice-seeking student organisation, the first confraternity in Nigeria. Soyinka gives a detailed account of his early life in his memoir Aké: The Years of Childhood.

Later in 1954, Soyinka relocated to England, where he continued his studies in English literature, under the supervision of his mentor Wilson Knight at the University of Leeds (1954–57). He met numerous young, gifted British writers. Before defending his B.A., Soyinka began publishing and worked as an editor for the satirical magazine The Eagle. He wrote a column on academic life, often criticising his university peers.

Early career
After graduating, he remained in Leeds with the intention of earning an M.A. Soyinka intended to write new work combining European theatrical traditions with those of his Yorùbá cultural heritage. His first major play, The Swamp Dwellers (1958), was followed a year later by The Lion and the Jewel, a comedy that attracted interest from several members of London’s Royal Court Theatre. Encouraged, Soyinka moved to London, where he worked as a play reader for the Royal Court Theatre. During the same period, both of his plays were performed in Ibadan. They dealt with the uneasy relationship between progress and tradition in Nigeria.[4]

In 1957 his play The Invention was the first of his works to be produced at the Royal Court Theatre. At that time his only published works were poems such as “The Immigrant” and “My Next Door Neighbour”, which were published in the Nigerian magazine Black Orpheus.[5] This was founded in 1957 by the German scholar Ulli Beier, who had been teaching at the University of Ibadan since 1950.[6]

Soyinka received a Rockefeller Research Fellowship from University College in Ibadan, his alma mater, for research on African theatre, and he returned to Nigeria. He produced his new satire, The Trials of Brother Jero. His work A Dance of The Forest (1960), a biting criticism of Nigeria’s political elites, won a contest that year as the official play for Nigerian Independence Day. On 1 October 1960, it premiered in Lagos as Nigeria celebrated its sovereignty. The play satirizes the fledgling nation by showing that the present is no more a golden age than was the past. Also in 1960, Soyinka established the “Nineteen-Sixty Masks”, an amateur acting ensemble to which he devoted considerable time over the next few years.

Soyinka published works satirising the “Emergency” in the Western Region of Nigeria, as his Yorùbá homeland was increasingly occupied and controlled by the federal government. The political tensions arising from recent post-colonial independence eventually led to a military coup and civil war (1967–70).
With the Rockefeller grant, Soyinka bought a Land Rover. He began travelling throughout the country as a researcher with the Department of English Language of the University College in Ibadan. In an essay of the time, he criticised Leopold Senghor’s Négritude movement as a nostalgic and indiscriminate glorification of the black African past that ignores the potential benefits of modernisation. “A tiger does not shout its tigritude,” he declared, “it acts.” In In Death and the King Horsemen he states: “The elephant trails no tethering-rope; that king is not yet crowned who will peg an elephant.”

In December 1962, his essay “Towards a True Theater” was published. He began teaching with the Department of English Language at Obafemi Awolowo University in Ifẹ. Soyinka discussed current affairs with “négrophiles,” and on several occasions openly condemned government censorship. At the end of 1963, his first feature-length movie, Culture in Transition, was released. In April 1964 The Interpreters, “a complex but also vividly documentary novel”,[7] was published in London.

That December, together with scientists and men of theatre, Soyinka founded the Drama Association of Nigeria. In 1964 he also resigned his university post, as a protest against imposed pro-government behaviour by authorities. A few months later, he was arrested for the first time, accused of underlying tapes during reproduction of recorded speech of the winner of Nigerian elections.[clarification needed] He was released after a few months of confinement, as a result of protests by the international community of writers. This same year he wrote two more dramatic pieces: Before the Blackout and the comedy Kongi’s Harvest. He also wrote The Detainee, a radio play for the BBC in London. At the end of the year, he was promoted to headmaster and senior lecturer in the Department of English Language at University of Lagos

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Source: Wikipedia

 

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