RIP Luther Rawlings
By Sean Curtin
Luther Rawlings, one of the classiest fighters to ever step in the ring, passed away on March 7, 2012 just 17 days shy of his 83rd birthday. Luther was born Lucious Minor Jr. in Memphis, TN on March 24, 1929.
Lucious received his ring name when he accompanied his hometown friend Ed Rollins who was an amateur boxer to a boxing show. When Rollins’ scheduled opponent balked at entering the ring with him, Lucious was asked to step in. Fighting as Lew Rollins he won a three-round decision. Somehow Lew Rollins became Luther Rawlings. He enjoyed the experience so much he continued to fight in the local amateur circuit as often as possible.
Realizing that boxing was a good way to make money, he turned professional on June 6, 1947 winning a 6 round decision over Augie Yarret at the old Rainbow Arena on Clark Street in Chicago.
He was a tall lightweight at 5 ft. 11 in. and eventually grew into a middleweight by the end of his career in 1959. From April of 1949 to May of 1951 he went on a 13 fight winning streak and became the number one ranked 135-pound contender by Ring Magazine after he beat Tommy Campbell. Unfortunately he never received a title shot. The closest he came to winning a title was when he lost a controversial split decision to the then lightweight champion Jimmy Carter in a 1952 non-title fight.
During his career Luther fought World Champions Joe Brown (L10, D10), Virgil Akins (L10, W10), Johnny Saxton (L10), Wallace ‘Bud’ Smith (D10), and in March of 1952 lost a split decision to World Champion Jimmy Carter in a non title bout. He also beat top contenders like Danny ‘Bang Bang’ Womber (W8, W10), Art Aragon (W10), Enrique Bolanos (TKO 7), Arthur Persley (KO 3) and Mario Trigo (W10). He lost to Orlando Zulueta (TKO by 5 due to a cut eye), Joe Miceli (L10, TKO by 2), Al Andrews (L10), Italo Scortichini (L10), Jimmy Beecham (L8), Rudell Stitch (TKO by 4) and Phil Moyer (L10, D10). Luther spent two years in the U.S. Army 1956 -1957. He ended his career on October 10, 1959 dropping a decision to Henry White at the Midwest Gym in Chicago.
After his boxing days were over Luther opened a tavern. After closing Luther’s Lounge and briefly running a clothing boutique, he managed an Aronson Furniture store for 30 years until his retirement in the mid-1990s.
After retiring, he became a volunteer coach at Leo High School and mentored students alongside fellow boxing greats Herman Mills and Eddie Perkins.
“Luther was pretty smart in there working with those guys,” said retired heavyweight Alonzo Johnson, who fought Muhammad Ali when the boxer was known as Cassius Clay. “The biggest thing a fighter could have is a guy like him in his corner because he knew the ropes.”
Having Mr. Rawlings, Mills and Perkins as volunteers “was like having Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio coaching for you,” said Mike Joyce, Leo boxing coach.
He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Georgia; another daughter, Renata Robinson; a son, Ronald; nine grandchildren; and a great-grandchild. After retirement he was involved in youth boxing programs giving his advice to younger boxers.
As good a boxer as he was in the ring, he was an even greater person outside the ring.