After retiring after getting knocked through the middle rope by Rocky Marciano in one of boxing’s all time saddest bout the “Brown Bomber” visited US troops stationed in Japan. While he was entertaining soldiers who was on leave from active service in the Korean war, Joe still had the urge to continue to box despite his much eroded boxing skills. Louis even went so far to tell a few boxing commissioners this but was told by them that they wouldn’t grant him a license due to fears over his health.
In 1953 Lilly Barrow Brooks – Joe’s Mother – died of heart disease and Louis was saddened by this as he adored his Mum, who didn’t get upset when she found out the violin lesson money was being used for boxing training. To make the pain worse the $667 she left him was taken away from the IRS to pay towards the overpaid tax as he owed over $500,000 in overdue tax, with his only income a reported $20,000 he received annually from the International Boxing Club.
In 1956 after Joes’ overpaid tax bill got up to $1.2 million, he signed up to become a wrestler with a $100,000 guarantee. But this venture didn’t last long after his “opponent” Rocky Lee accidentally landed on his chest and broke two ribs and bruising the muscles near his heart. Of course Louis didn’t hang up his wrestling trunks up voluntarily as state athletic commissions quickly took away his license to wrestle, just in case the 42 year old ex-champion decided not to retire from this spectacle.
But Joes’ foray into wrestling wouldn’t end there as he became a celebrity referee for $1,500 a match for big “grudge” matches. Democrat Alfred D. Sieminsky attempted to pass a bill through US Congress calling for the tax bill to be wiped clean. The bill didn’t succeed, but the IRS agreed to limit its collections of tax from the “Brown Bomber”. On Christmas day 1955 Joe married Rose Morgan a black businesswoman. But being constant away put a strain on the marriage and in 1958 they divorced.
In 1959 Joe married again, this time to Martha Malone Jefferson who was the first black woman to be admitted to the Californian bar. Louis’ wife managed to convince the IRS to forget the large overdue taxes. But the tax was never struck off by the IRS and he still officially owed money until he died. By the late 1960’s the “Brown Bomber” was using Cocaine and this caused him to collapse with abdominal pain while in New York on a business decision. Louis started to become somewhat paranoid as he believed a gangster hit man was out to kill him .
On May 1st 1970 Joe Louis was committed to a Psychiatric hospital as his wife and son became concerned about his behavior. After recovering quickly from treatment a long-time friend hired him as a $50,000 greeter at the Caesars Palace casino. The “Brown Bomber” was in his element as he was mobbed daily by fans who wanted to meet the most famous Heavyweight in history alongside Muhammad Ali. In October 1977 Louis suffered a severe heart attack at the age of 63. While in hospital he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage which left him wheelchair based and made talking difficult for him.
His famous friend Frank Sinatra paid his medical bills while in hospital. On April 11th 1981 Joe Louis was wheeled down to his ringside seat to watch Larry Holmes vs. Trevor Berbick in a WBC title clash. 4,000 people stood up and cheered for the great champion. The very next morning at 9:43AM Joe Louis died of a severe heart attack – he was 67 years old. The civil rights campaigner Jesse Jackson led the funeral service and he was buried in the Arlington Cemetery with all the other American heroes.