Early Life Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., was born in Louisville, Kentucky, on January 17, 1942, the son of Cassius Marcellus Clay, Sr., and Odessa Lee Grady Clay. His father was a commercial artist specializing in sign painting; he also painted murals for churches and taverns. His mother sometimes worked as a domestic for four dollars a day to help support the family. Some of the Clays trace their name to Ali's great-great-grandfather, who was a slave of Cassius Marcellus Clay, a relative of Henry Clay and ambassador to Russia in the 1860's.