Joe Louis

Sport: Boxing
Years: 1934-1951
The term "American hero" is thrown around lightly in sports nowadays with it being used for everyone from athletes who are considered the most popular among fans to those who win gold medals for the U.S. at the Olympics. But one of the few who athletes who represented the epitome of an American hero was boxing champ Joe Louis. The heavyweight whose championship reign lasted from 1937 to 1949 served in the military during World War II and became an icon for anti-Nazi sentiment in the country. His celebrity was often used to encourage blacks to join the armed forces despite the fact that the U.S. military was segregated. The Brown Bomber responded to this fact by saying, "Lots of things wrong with America, but Hitler ain't going to fix them."

Despite his work in the ring and outside of it, greedy promoters and incremental tax rates left the champ in financial distress. He ended up having to work odd jobs and seeking assistance from friends in order to pay his bills. SMH, what can your country do for you?