A former Birmingham politician who lured boxing legend Muhammad Ali to the city has died aged 72.
James Hunte and his wife Sharon reduced the ex-world heavyweight champion to tears when they flew to America to outline their vision for a centre in his name.
Ali promised to open the venue and, true to his word, he came to Birmingham to perform the honours on August 9, 1983, as more than a thousand people scrambled to see him.
It was among the highlights of Hunte’s eventful career in Midland politics.
He stood as an independent candidate in a 1977 by-election in Ladywood after Labour MP Brian Walden stood down to concentrate on a career in broadcasting.
He was also a member of the old West Midlands County Council and became renowned for campaigning against pyramid selling scams, prompting a change in the law.
But he courted controversy, too, and was accused of abusing his position as vice chairman of the authority’s race relations committee to help black community groups, acting – as one councillor claimed in a May 1991 interview – as “some kind of patron giving out money according to people he liked”.
Hunte and Sharon – a former city council member who represented Handsworth for Labour during the 1981 riots – moved to Barbados in 1987 when he was offered a senior security job at an airport in Bridgetown.
He died on May 23 after suffering from blood-thinning problems following a clot detected last December. The couple were married for almost 36 years. Paying tribute to her husband, Sharon, 54, said: “He fought through all the allegations and controversy. We were on the outside for many years but no-one was treated differently. Everyone with a problem was dealt with fairly.
“More black people came forward because they were the ones who were suffering.
“James was a great husband and loyal to his friends. He did everything without regret and I know he would have done exactly the same again.”
Hunte, who was also a member of the Police Authority, arrived in Britain from the Caribbean in the early 1960s and joined the Army before launching his political career.