50 years ago today Cassius Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali. In 1964 the world heavyweight boxing champion was the most celebrated athlete on the planet, more famous than any quarterback, home-run hitter, or 7-foot center. Ali's conversion to the Nation of Islam was unsettling to Americans and even to blacks, who were mostly Christian.
John F. Kennedy had been assassinated four months earlier, the Beatles with their moptops had invaded America in February, and a young lady named Kitty Genovese would be stabbed to death in New York on March 13th near dozens of witnesses, none of whom lifted a finger or called for help.
The Sixties had begun in earnest.