Joseph Louis Barrow was born May 13, 1914.
Louis was heavyweight champion of the world from 1937-1949.
In 1938 Louis defeated Germany's Max Schmeling in a match that transcended boxing. At the time, Schmeling had been the only boxer who had been able to defeat Louis. Although Schmeling was not a Nazi, German propaganda touted him to be a symbol of Aryan supremacy.
Louis knocked out Schmeling in the first round of the rematch, a victory that elevated his status beyond that of just a sports star.
For more about the life of Joe Louis, check out this excerpt from Ira Berkow's boxing collection.