By Jim Berry

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – During Super Bowl week, it seemed like NFL legend Jim Brown was everywhere. He appeared at elegant charity events and on the sideline with other football greats.

But before all of the public festivities, Brown paid a private visit to the historic Hampton House, a landmark which conjures up some of Miami’s rich black history.

Brown was a guest there in the 1960s, when the Hampton House was known as the “Jewel of the South,” The hotel catered to black patrons in then-segregated Miami.

“America, racially, in 1964 was embarrassing,” Brown said. “Equality didn’t count. Fairness didn’t count.”

During his visit, which was chronicled by the NFL, Brown was particularly interested in seeing room No. 38. It’s where he hung out with Cassius Clay after the boxer, who changed his name to Muhammed Ali, beat Sonny Liston to become heavyweight champ.

Joining them here were two other iconic figures – singer Sam Cooke and activist Malcolm X.

Hampton House president and CEO Charlayne Thompkins says on that night in Miami, the four larger than life stars did more than just celebrate Clay’s stunning victory.

“This is the room where they were challenging each other as to help the Negro plight,” she said.

A sign for the historic Hampton House, which was known as the “Jewel of the South” in the 1960s. (CBS4)

Their meeting that night was the basis for a play titled “One Night In Miami.”

At one of his many Super Bowl appearances, Brown told me that he now appreciates how special that night was.

“Just the fact that you could put those individuals together is just a miracle,” he said.

Brown said he’s glad that the Hampton House, which fell into disrepair, has been restored as a cultural center and museum.

Here the walls tell stories, like Martin Luther King Jr. relaxing after writing a draft of his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

“We’ve come a long ways,” Brown said. “We’ve got long ways to go.”

To Brown, they stir up memories of a special moment in time that he shared with others who shaped history.

“Today, we just look back and appreciate those who made this room significant,” he said. “I’m so happy I was one of them.”

The play on which that night is based may soon become a movie.

Meanwhile, the Hampton House is hosting tours for school children so that they can learn about history that people like Brown created.

Jim Berry

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