Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Wop Plants A Tree

"Wop Plants A Tree" by randy speck William Oliver Perry McWhorter, who lived at Cartwright, Kentucky and eventually operated a general store there, attended the 1876 Philadelphia Exhibition. On his way home, he visited the tomb of George Washington at Mount Vernon, Virginia, and while he was there, picked up a walnut that had fallen from a tree, which cast its shadow over the tomb. A story in the Dec. 11, 1901 edition of the Louisville Courier-Journal said that, when he arrived back home in Clinton County, Wop (as he was known) planted the nut, which grew into a fifty foot high tree. William Oliver Perry McWhorter was born in 1834 and died in 1919. He is buried at Cartwright Cemetery.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Hillbilly Jim: WWE Hall of Fame

Mudlick, Kentucky's most well-known resident, Hillbilly Jim, is headed to the WWE Hall of Fame.

The former wrestler will join Goldberg, Ivory, The Dudley Boyz and Jeff Jarrett as part of the 2018 Hall of Fame class that will be enshrined April 6 at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans during WrestleMania 34 weekend.

Hillbilly Jim, whose real name is Jim Morris, was born in Louisville, Kentucky but raised in Bowling Green, Kentucky, although during his wrestling days, and even at his current job as host of of Moonshine Matinee on Sirius XM's Outlaw Country, his character was/is from Mudlick, Kentucky, which, of course, goes much better with his Hillbilly Jim moniker.

Morris was discovered in Bowling Green during the early 1980's by wrestler Mike Mann, son of Dale "TNT" Mann, who trained the soon-to-be WWE hall of famer.

But, how did this giant of a man go from being an Allstate basketball player for Bowling Green High School to being a then-World Wrestling Federation Superstar?

After playing basketball for several colleges, Jim left the states to play for the European League, then tried out for the N.B.A. When that didn't pan out, he made his way back to Bowling Green and spent his time working out in the gym while looking for a job. Some of you probably remember the days when there was this extraordinary huge character working as a bouncer at the Brass A Saloon and Mr. D's in Bowling Green.

This is when Jim's positive attitude began to pay off. Dale Mann asked Jim if he'd be interested in wrestling. He later recalled those days by saying, "It comes down to knowing people, not only knowing them, but being ready to go when you get your shot. Sometimes you only get one shot. If you're not ready, they'll go on to somebody else." Fortunately, Morris knew this was it and went with it.

Soon, he was signed by the Continental Wrestling Association, where he wrestled around the Memphis area as a biker aptly dubbed, Harley Davidson. He started attending WWE marches and soon some of the wrestlers like Rowdy Roddy Piper began noticing him in the crowd. His fame ballooned once he joined WWE, then known as WWF, as a happy-go-lucky country boy babyface known as Hillbilly Jim, who would strut to the ring dressed in overalls. He began his run in the WWF in 1984. His role as Hillbilly Jim came naturally to him, he said. He drew on his Kentucky roots to morph into a larger-than-life version of himself.

"It was always a very doable and easy character to step into," Jim said. "I know a lot of country people. I know what that translates to. I did the best I could to bring that to the ring. It's a lot like I really am in person. I'm a happy, excitable kind of character. And I just wanted to denote happiness."

In the WWE, Jim was aligned with Hulk Hogan and his popularity soared as he was pitted against the likes of Mr. Fuji during the infamous Tuxedo matches. The two rivals battled in formal wear in Philadelphia, St. Louis and most notably at Madison Square Garden in New York.

For the now 65-year-old Hillbilly Jim, his popular Country and Southern rock radio show on Sirius XM is coming up on its 13-year anniversary. He is grateful to all of those who cheered for him from the stands and to WWE for giving him the platform in which he made his name. "I don't have my Sirius XM radio show because I'm Jim Morris. I've got it because I'm Hillbilly Jim," he said. "This company gave me Hillbilly Jim."

Monday, March 5, 2018

Randy "Macho Man" Savage versus Dale "TNT" Mann

The date was February 8, 1978. Gulas Pro Wrestling and the National Wrestling Association featured Randy "Macho Man" Savage versus Dale "TNT" Mann in one of two main events at Fairgrounds Arena in Nashville. It was the third match between the two popular wrestlers in eight days.

The match was billed as a "Winner Take All, Fight to a Finish!" Also on the same card, Tojo Yammoto and Leaping Lanny Poffo were featured in one tag team match and in another, Kurt and Karl Von Steiger, who at one point in their careers were known as The Germans. They were managed by my friend, Wendell Burchett (or Bur'chette, as he was billed). For all of you wrestling trivia fans, Wendell wore an army helmet and used it as a weapon of distraction during matches, although more times than not, as he once related to me, the helmet was grabbed by an opponent and used on him.

By the way, about that match between Randy Savage and Dale Mann forty years ago today, Mann won by disqualification. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Feb. 8, 1978 was the third time in eight days that Savage and Mann had wrestled each other. The first, on Feb. 1st at Nashville, was for the NWA Mid-America Heavyweight Championship. Savage retained the title because of a time limit draw. The second time was on Feb. 7th at Birmingham, Alabama, and again Savage retained the title because of a time limit draw.

Another piece of wrestling trivia, for a time, before Savage ascended to the throne at the WWE in Samford, Connecticut, the Poffo family wrestled regularly throughout Kentucky. Most always, the ring they used was provided by Dale Mann.

Friday, March 2, 2018

A Eulogy for Billy Graham

A private (invitation only) funeral service for the Rev. Billy Graham will be held today at noon in a tent outside the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina. Graham died Feb. 21st at his home in Montreat. He was 99. He will be buried next to his wife Ruth, at the Billy Graham Library Prayer Garden. She was buried there on June 17, 2007. The tent is symbolic of the "canvas cathedral" in which Graham conducted his 1949 Los Angeles Crusade that lasted eight weeks and propelled him to national prominence.

  Following the private interment service, Graham's grave marker will be put in place. The marker is made of North Carolina stone. Written on it is a scripture reference to John 14:6, a bible verse he used regularly throughout his ministry.

  "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."

  Billy Graham's casket was designed and built by inmates at the nation's largest maximum security prison, Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana. While touring the correctional facility after preaching there in 2005, Graham's son Franklin saw caskets being built. Inmates at Angola make caskets for other inmates who cannot afford to purchase one. Moved by this, the younger Graham requested that inmates make caskets for his mother and father. The casket s made of pine and lined with a mattress pad. A wooden cross is nailed to the top of the casket. Ruth Graham's casket is identical to this one.

  Graham conducted more than 400 Crusades on six continents beginning in 1947, taking the Gospel to some 215 million people in more than 185 countries. Hundreds of millions more have been reached through television, video, film and webcasts. Twice, during Crusades in Seoul, South Korea, Graham preached to crowds of more than one million people. In the United States, Graham preached in 45 states (plus Washington, D.C.) and more than 125 U.S. cities. More than 3.2 million people have responded to the invitation at Billy Graham Crusades. Millions more have done so as a result of broadcast outreaches.

  Born Nov. 7, 1918, four days before the armistice ended World War I, William Franklin "Billy" Graham Jr. grew up during the Depression and developed a work ethic that would carry him through decades of ministry on six continents. He was raised on a dairy farm in Charlotte. Back then, "Billy Frank," as he was called, preferred baseball to religion. "I detested going to church," he said when recalling his youth.

  But in 1934, that changed. At a revival led by traveling evangelist Mordecai Fowler Ham, 15-year-old Graham committed his life to serving Jesus Christ. No one was more surprised than Graham himself. "I was opposed to evangelism," he said. "But finally, I was persuaded by a friend [to go to a meeting]...and the spirit of God began to speak to me as I went back night after night. One night, when the invitation was given to accept Jesus, I just said, 'Lord, I'm going.' I knew I was headed in a new direction."

  Several years later, Graham's "new direction" led him to the Florida Bible Institute (now Trinity College of Florida), and later, Wheaton College in suburban Chicago, where he met fellow student Ruth McCue Bell, the daughter of medical missionaries in China. The couple graduated and married in the summer of 1943. Mr. and Mrs. Graham and their five children made their home in the mountains of North Carolina. They were married 64 years before Ruth's death in 2007.

  After two years of traveling as a speaker for the Youth for Christ organization, Billy Graham held his first official evangelistic Crusade Sept. 13 – 21, 1947 in the Civic Auditorium in Grand Rapids, Michigan, when Graham was 29 years old. It was attended by 6,000 people. But, it was his 1949 Los Angeles Crusade that first captured the nation's attention. Originally scheduled to run for three weeks, the "tent meetings" were extended for a total of eight weeks as hundreds of thousands of men, women and children gathered to hear Graham's messages.

  "I have one message: that Jesus Christ came, he died on a cross, he rose again, and he asked us to repent of our sins and receive him by faith as Lord and Savior, and if we do, we have forgiveness of all of our sins," said Graham at his final Crusade at New York's Flushing Meadows Corona Park, June 24 – 26, 2005 when Graham was 86 years old. More than 230,000 people attended.

  According to a 2005 Gallup Poll, 35 million Americans—one in six adults—had heard Billy Graham preach in person. He was regularly listed by the Gallup organization as one of the "Ten Most Admired Men in the World." In 1983, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Reagan —the highest honor the president can bestow on a private citizen. In 1996, U.S. lawmakers awarded Graham and his wife, Ruth, the Congressional Gold Medal — the highest honor Congress can bestow on a private citizen.

  In addition to his crusades, Graham provided counsel to 12 sitting U.S. presidents, beginning with Harry S. Truman. I was at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville on the night of May 28, 1970, when Richard Nixon spoke at a Billy Graham Crusade. I wrote about it in "Nixon's Night Out."

Wop Plants A Tree

"Wop Plants A Tree" by randy speck William Oliver Perry McWhorter, who lived at Cartwright, Kentucky and eventually operated a ...