In 1962 I was working in a Denver meat packing plant for a magnificent salary of $55 per week. Part of the job was making deliveries. One day I was sent to an address just East of the Denver City Park off 17th Avenue with a large order. The boss didn’t give me a name, only the address. This is an area with older manor type houses, definitely high rent. There was a courtyard in back with a detached carriage house. Knocking at the back door, a black lady answered and requested I take the order downstairs to the basement. No problem.
After one trip, I was at the back of the truck getting the second load when I heard a voice saying, “let me give you a hand”. Two huge black hands reached past me. I about shit my pants; thought a gorilla had escaped from the zoo. It was Sonny Liston, his house, and his wife that had answered the door. The man had 15” fists.
The woman I married had a summer job at the Denver Park/Zoo concession stand. She loved Sonny Liston. He would come strolling up with two good looking women on his arms and buy a pickle for himself and whatever the ladies wanted. Paid with a $5 or $10 bill and always told her to keep the change.
My late buddy, Dirty Al Imhoff started his military career in the Air Force and was on the boxing team. Al was about 6’3” and had the chance to spar with Sonny Liston at Lowry. As Al told the story, he was doing well until Sonny Liston did an overhand smack to the top of Al’s head. Took Al down. He said Sonny Liston was very concerned, “Did I hurt you? I didn’t mean to”.
Whatever faults Sonny Liston may have had, he made a real effort to be a good citizen in Denver. Certain elements within the Denver Police Department were determined to run him out of Denver (Buster Snyder and Bob Wilkerson to name names). Sonny Liston moved to Las Vegas. During that time 40 out of a sworn force of 720 or so Denver cops were convicted of running a burglary ring and sent to prison.
While this may anger readers with LEO backgrounds, I will say the Ferguson effect is an embedded part of DPD going back to the start of the city. I personally know officers in nearby jurisdiction that will not work any joint task forces with DPD, especially the Narcotics details. Corruption in all areas of Denver government may not be at Chicago levels but it isn’t a squeaky clean city many believe it to be.
Off track here, but I will always remember meeting Sonny Liston and remember him as a gentleman.