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Muhammad Ali celebrated, mourned at Charlotte barber shop

Frank Green, of Louisville, Ky., kneels to pray at a memorial for Muhammad Ali at the Muhammad Ali Center, Saturday in Louisville Ky.
Frank Green, of Louisville, Ky., kneels to pray at a memorial for Muhammad Ali at the Muhammad Ali Center, Saturday in Louisville Ky. AP

Saturday mornings at Edward’s barbershop are usually a gabfest, with spirited debates that range from critiques of NBA stars Stephen Curry and LeBron James to the latest episode of ‘Empire’.

Like millions of televisions across the country on Saturday, the shop’s two screens were tuned to round-the-clock coverage of the overnight death of 74-year-old boxing legend Muhammad Ali.

Somber probably best described the mood at this northeast Charlotte barbershop.

Older African-American men sat transfixed on TV commentators’ every word. Younger men urged their restless sons to sit still and watch news chronicling the life of one of sports’ all-time greatest athletes and notable social activists.

Barber Joe Sellers stood proudly as he cut hair wearing a T-shirt that sported one of Ali’s most memorable quotes: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”

Early Vaughters, 67, a barber in Charlotte for almost 50 years – 25 of them at Edward’s – said Saturday morning was particularly emotional for Ali fans in the African-American community.

“With every customer this morning we’ve shared an Ali moment,” Vaughters said. “We’re happy he’s not suffering anymore, and everybody sharing an Ali moment is getting us through this. It’s as though he’s a family member.”

Vaughters said Saturday morning was unlike anything he’d experienced at the shop.

“We’re paying more attention to the television than usual,” he said. “Normally we’re so loud. I haven’t had to tell people to be quiet. We’re telling kids we’re watching history – not just in boxing but also in Ali being a humanitarian.

“He gave us a voice throughout his life.”

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