February 26

Tiger Flowers

February 26, 1926 - Camilla, Atlanta

He took a Bible with him into the ring. Dubbed the “Georgia Deacon,” he was the first black boxer to be middleweight champion of the world.

Theodore “Tiger” Flowers was born in Camilla in 1895 and started boxing at 18. Flowers was the first black boxer after Jack Johnson to fight for a world title, but he was nothing like Johnson. His showmanship was tempered by an unthreatening demeanor and deep religious convictions. That made him popular with both whites and blacks.

Flowers won the title against middleweight champion Harry Greb in Madison Square Garden in 1926 and defended it in a rematch months later. He died tragically, after an operation in 1927.

Some 75,000 Atlanta mourners filed past his coffin; his memorial service drew 7,000 people to the city auditorium, a collective grief not seen again until Dr. King’s funeral 40 years later.

The International Boxing Hall of Fame inducted Flowers in 1993, a fitting tribute to the pioneering fighter who was first crowned champion on February 26, 1926, Today in Georgia History.