Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, the boxer whose murder conviction became a cause celebre, was born in Clifton on May 6th, 1937. Carter grew up in Paterson and had a troubled childhood, spending time in a juvenile reformatory. He ran away and joined the Army, which is where he took up boxing. After being discharged as unfit for service, Carter started his career as a professional boxer; although there was a stint in prison for a pair of muggings first.

During the ‘60s, Carter rose up the ranks of middleweight boxing, getting as high as the #3 contender, and fought for the middleweight championship, losing on a unanimous decision. On June 17th, 1966, everything changed: two men were shot and killed in a Paterson bar and Carter and another man were arrested for the crime. Even though there was no physical evidence tying Carter to the murders, he was found guilty by an all-white jury and sentenced to two consecutive life terms in prison. Two witnesses later recanted their testimony and Carter was retried in 1976, but was convicted again. However, in 1985, the US Supreme Court set aside his convictions, saying they were based more on racism than reason and he was set free. Carter moved to Canada where he headed the Association in Defense of the Wrongly Convicted.

Carter received a lot of celebrity support during his ordeal. Bob Dylan recorded a song, “Hurricane,” about the case and performed it at Trenton State Prison while Carter was imprisoned there. There was also a 1999 film, The Hurricane, about his life. Carter was played by Denzel Washington (who was nominated for an Oscar for his performance).

Carter died of cancer in 2014.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Bill Doyle. Any opinions expressed are Bill Doyle's own.

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