The article primarily focuses on the
promoter who proceeded Crockett in Charlotte, one John Francis
"Irish" Horan, and his shenanigans (as Hornbaker calls them) that
almost killed wrestling in Charlotte in the early 1930s. When some
of Horan's fraudulent credentials were exposed by the Charlotte
sports media, it left the door open for Jim Crockett.
There is much to be digested here,
including nuggets of information woven into the article of
Crockett's involvement in wrestling in Greensboro before coming to
Charlotte, that one of his three brothers was involved in the
wrestling business with him, and that long time Richmond VA promoter
Bill Lewis partnered with Crockett in getting a foothold in the
tumultuous 1934 Charlotte wrestling scene.
Check out the article on the Legacy of
The Prelude to a Wrestling Empire – The Introduction of Jim Crockett
by Tim Hornbaker.
- D. Bourne
Updated July 2011
Earliest Promotion of Pro-Wrestling
by Carroll Hall, "All-Star
Pete Moore and
James Allen Crockett formed the Southeastern Corporation in Bristol,
Virginia during 1931 with Pete Moore as President and Jim Crockett
Jim Crockett came
to Greensboro, North Carolina in December 1933. Mr. Crockett
converted a warehouse into an arena. He promoted his first
Greensboro wrestling event there on December 20,1933. Mr. Crockett
donated a percentage of the proceeds from that event to the Empty
On January 3,1939,
Bill Lewis of Richmond, Virginia and Jim Crockett bought out Pete
Moore for the reported sum of $8,000 dollars, dissolving the
Southeastern Corporation. Bill Lewis and Jim Crockett then began
promoting as the Bill Lewis Athletic Corporation.
that I have researched that are related to Mr. Crockett's history
are on the front page of my blog.
Bill Lewis and Jim Crockett, 1939
1985, Jim Crockett Promotions, then led by Crockett's sons Jim Jr.
and David, celebrated the 50th anniversary of the company,
1935-1985, with special cards throughout that year. Recent research
has shed further light on Crockett Sr.'s history as a promoter which
began at least four years earlier in 1931 in Crockett's
hometown of Bristol, VA. Crockett apparently promoted several towns
in southwest Virginia and east Tennessee, including Kingsport,
reflected in one of the articles below. According to his obituary,
also below, he came to Charlotte in 1934 and set up shop there and
established the wrestling dynasty known as Jim Crockett Promotions.
We don't know for sure, but we're guessing the 1935 date as
established by the Crockett family in their silver anniversary
celebration was based on the date when the company was incorporated.
- D. Bourne
Early Office Locations
from a 5/25/87 article in the
Charlotte Observer by Tom Sorenson
"Crockett first worked out of his home.
Then he owned a series of restaurants - the Queen's Soda & Grill, a
predecessor to the Town House on Providence Road; the Ringside Soda
Grill in Elizabeth; Wesley Heights Grill; Jim & Jake's. The
restaurants were his office. And they fed his 300 pound frame."
JIM CROCKETT PROMOTES
TENNESSEE IN 1933
Two powerful and ponderous mat men, Leo
Walleck, German sensation, and Jack Sexton, Indiana plowboy, have
been signed for the mat card to be presented at the American Legion
Carnival Thursday night. These two men will meet in a 45 minute
match, one fall.
Another match will be arranged for the
evening. The card at the American Legion is being staged by the
Legion through Main Street Arena promoters Jim Crockett and W. S.
Waddell. Mr. Waddell and Mr. Crockett are cooperating with the
local Legion post this week and there will be no match at the Main
Street Arena Saturday night.
Kingsport TN Newspaper Clipping,
September 21, 1933
Jim Crockett was making news early in
his career. This is from the nationally syndicated "Sports Round-Up"
column found in the Reno Evening Gazette newspaper on August
Success story: Five
years ago Jim Crockett, Charlotte NC wrestling promoter, borrowed
$50, hired a hall, and put on a match in Bristol, TN. Today he
features the grunt and groaners in twenty leading cites between
Norfolk and Miami. He has offices in five cities and pays three
publicity men $100 a week each. Jack Curley, dean of all wrestling
promoters, thinks well of Crockett.
Sports Round-Up, Reno Evening Gazette,
From the Charlotte Observer, April 1973
Susan Jetton, Observer Staff Writer
He would survey an arena with eyes
scanning like a radar scope. The blips indicated empty seats.
Vacancy was a nasty word to Jim Crockett.
“It’s raining up the road,” a
confederate would console. “Some of these people in the mills don’t
get their payday this week.”
Jim, after his hasty count of the
house, would shake his head sadly and say, “We didn’t give them what
they wanted. The people come when you give them what they want.”
He was a man of few words, a paradox as
a highly successful promoter. He shunned fanfare. His office was as
unpretentious as a janitor’s closet in a low rent apartment.
Crockett had the size of two pro tackles welded together, but he was
impeccably neat in his dress. Dark blue was his favorite color.
A call to Jim Crockett usually resulted
in Jim Crockett answering the telephone. He ran a million dollar
business off the top of his head and without a secretary. Wrestling
tonight, Victor Borge tomorrow, followed by the Harlem
Crockett died this week at 64. He was a
Wrestling and the Big Bands
It began in the early 1930s when Jim
was seeking a business and Charlotte was hoping to find that rarest
of individuals, an honest wrestling promoter. Crockett came into the
city with very little money, a clean-cut Virginia face and a pledge
to offer a fair count and an honest billboard.
So he became THE promoter. It wasn’t a
business like IBM, but it rallied its weekly faithful and each year
it grew. The names were changed, but the faces were the same. The
good and the bad and the ugly. The bad and the ugly often drew
better than the good. They still talk about Cowboy Luttrell as the
king of the rat pack.
Jim Crockett got his footing and once
his head was above water, he tried a bit of everything. He began
dealing in the big band business and his dance nights filled the old
Armory. He was on first-name terms with the Dorsey brothers, Stan
Kenton, Ben Bernie and the ageless Mr. Lombardo.
Satchmo Armstrong called him Big Jim.
Jack Dempsey wrapped an arm around his thick shoulders. Joe Louis
referred to him as “a great man”. Ray Charles gave Crockett some
headaches and full houses.
No Fat Cat Looks
Jim had a friend in Gene Autry, the
western star, and James Brown, the singer. He often booked shows he
knew were bad business to do a friend a favor – realizing he might
be on the hook sometime. He would sit off-stage and monitor a
performance. It was his personal thrill.
Crockett drove comfortable automobiles,
but he would pale at the sight of a Cadillac salesman. He’d explain,
“It’s a great car, but I don’t want my customers to see me driving
to the show looking like a fat cat. Not when they’re having problems
digging up $1.50 for a balcony seat.”
He lived in the same home for 25 years
until his children were grown and he could relax a bit. He then
built a handsome residence. He occasionally took trips, but his
vacation time was the only slim thing about him. In recent years, he
had visited Europe and Japan. Jim’s real joy was his wife and his
He was a big man, but few people called
him fat. Maybe he weighed 350 or 400 pounds at one time. He wouldn’t
have been Jim Crockett had he worn a Ray Bolger body. He once went
on a strict diet, losing 100 pounds and the mirror still wasn’t
flattering. Jim said to hell with starvation after that ordeal.
Honesty and Hard Work
Some years ago, he was convinced that
televised wrestling would stimulate business. He began screening his
gladiators weekly and the ratings zoomed at the station. So did his
live box office.
A Crockett diary would fill a bookcase
on show business dates. He presented ice shows and boxing bouts and
fishing tournaments and the roller derby. He offered a bear that
wrestled and a boxing kangaroo. It was the Crockett touch that
brought “My Fair Lady” to Ovens Auditorium as an artistic success.
“I’ve never seen a better dressed or
more appreciative audience,” Jim told Paul Buck. “I’ve never made
less money for the work. Shows price themselves out of business. So
do many of the name stars.”
The Crockett empire grew on hard
business facts, an ear to the public pulse, and a baker’s honesty.
Said Jim: “If you promise them Andy Williams for two hours, make
sure Andy’s out there early and see that he doesn’t leave for 122
Jim hadn’t been feeling well. Last
Friday morning, he found it difficult to breathe. Mrs. Crockett got
him to the hospital and his sizable family couldn’t hide its
concern. In the emergency room, he called to John Ringley, his
son-in-law, and whispered, “Look after them.”
Jim Crockett had seen too many curtains
fall not to recognize his own.
DEATH ENDS AN INSTITUTION
Susan Jetton, Observer Staff Writer
Jim Crockett, the man who brought
wrestling, “My Fair Lady”, the Lone Ranger and Lassie to Charlotte,
died early Sunday morning in a local hospital. He was 64.
“It is a great loss. He is an
institution. It’s like taking away Trade and Tryon,” said close
friend and business associate Paul Buck, the Coliseum manager.
Crockett came to Charlotte in 1934 with
about $5,000 in cash and a budding reputation as a promoter. He
built himself into “the premier promoter in the Southeast.”
“He had everything it takes for the
business. He was honest, he was tough, and he was direct. But like
one of the secretaries out here said, ‘He was the sweetest big man
I’ve ever seen,’” Buck said Sunday afternoon.
From his office at 1111 East Morehead
Street, Crockett – who tipped the scales at 300 pounds plus –
directed hundreds of shows yearly across the Southeast. He brought
the big bands in the ‘30s and ‘40s, rock and roll in the ‘50s,
country and western, Broadway plays and musicals, the Harlem
Globetrotters, and cowboys and Indians.
“He kept us in business here when we
were just beginning,” said Buck of the shows brought by Crockett to
the Coliseum and Ovens Auditorium.
But his first love was wrestling. And
Crockett made wrestling a weekly ritual in the Carolinas. About ten
years ago, however, he stopped his practice of stepping into the
What happened was that one of his
wrestlers went berserk, and Crockett climbed into the ring to cool
him off. The wrestler floored Crockett with one blow.
Funeral services will be at 10 am
Tuesday at Hankins and Whittington Funeral Chapel. A graveside
service will be at 4:30 pm Tuesday at Glenwood Cemetery in Bristol,
Tennessee, his hometown.
He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth,
who lives at the family home at 4023 Arbor Way. Other survivors are
a daughter, Mrs. John R. Ringley, and sons, James Allen Crockett,
Jr., David F. Crockett, and Charles J. Crockett, all of Charlotte,
and three brothers, Raymond Crockett of Bristol, Tennessee, Walter
E. Crockett and Claude H. Crockett of Bristol, Virginia.
Honorary pallbearers will be some of
Crockett’s best friends – area sportswriters, radio and TV
announcers, promoters and arena managers.
In keeping with his wishes, friends may
send memorials to the Shriner’s Crippled Children’s Hospital in
Greenville, South Carolina, or to the Mecklenburg Association for
That was the side of Crockett he tried
to hide from the public – his regular signing of three-figure checks
“That’s how I knew him. As a quiet man
who, busy as he was, had the time to help someone in need, to offer
advice, or to help those less fortunate,” said City Councilman Jim
Whittington related a story of a friend
of Crockett’s who went broke after several bad business ventures.
“Nobody else would even speak to him,” said Whittington. But
Crockett got the man a job at which he is “now very successful.”
Crockett was born on the Virginia side
of the street in the mountain town of Bristol. He played football at
Bristol High with Gene McEver and Beattie Feathers, both of whom
went on to become All-Americans and members of football’s Hall of
Fame. It was in high school that he began setting up boxing ”battle
royals” to warm up crowds before the main matches.
He continued on the sideline while
starring on the baseball team at Norman Park Junior College in
Norman Park, Georgia. But he quit college when his sideline became a
main and successful activity. Crockett came to Charlotte as a
full-time promoter a year after leaving college.
In Charlotte, he was a member of Joppa
(Masonic) Lodge and the Oasis (Shriners) Temple.
Charlotte Observer NC April 1973
Dory Funk Jr. on Jim Crockett Sr.
weighed in at 300 pounds and was a dominating personality. He ran
his territory with authority from an old house on Morehead Street in
Charlotte, North Carolina. The first time I met Jim, I walked into
his office as NWA world champion in my second week. He looked at me
and said, "I just want you to know you are our champion and you are
not a f*cking recruiter for your father. Keep your hands off my
talent." I knew not to recruit his talent. Crockett's territory was
one of the largest in that he ran four towns a night throughout
Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina and kept a large number
of wrestling talent. In the Mid Atlantic territory I faced Johnny
Weaver, Paul Jones, Bronco Lubich, and J.J. Dillon in world title
The Mid-Atlantic Gateway is working on a feature
to eventually be published here on the the patriarch of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling,
Jim Crocket, Sr., as well as the entire Crockett family.
If you have photos or biographical
material related to the Crocketts that you would like to share with
other on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway website, please contact us at
Thanks to Carroll Hall, Mark Eastridge, Jared Neumark, and Peggy
Lathan for their assistance with this feature. Special thanks also
to Tim Hornbaker.
Research by Carroll Hall, Mark
Eastridge, and Dick Bourne.
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