President Bush announced the 14 total recipients on Thursday. They will be honored at a White House ceremony next Wednesday.
In addition to Ali, the three-time heavyweight champion who successfully defended his title 19 times and was a gold medalist at the 1960 Olympics, Hall of Fame baseball player and manager Frank Robinson and Hall of Fame golfer Jack Nicklaus will receive medals.
Robinson, the manager of the Washington Nationals, won MVP awards in both the American and National Leagues and is sixth on the career home runs list with 586. He also was the first black manager in major league history, when he took over Cleveland in 1975.
Nicklaus, widely considered the greatest golfer of all time, won a record 18 major tournaments as a professional and 73 PGA Tour events. He won the Masters six times and the U.S. Open four times. Nicklaus was also the champion at the British Open three times and holds five PGA Championships.
Among others awarded the honor were comedian/actress Carol Burnett, singer Aretha Franklin, Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan and actor Andy Griffith.
The Medal of Freedom was established by President Truman in 1945 to recognize civilians for their efforts during World War II. The award was reinstated by President Kennedy in 1963 to honor distinguished service.