Provided by J Michael Kenyon through WRESTLING AS WE LIKED IT.
"Self-inflicted gunshot kills Eddie Graham"
Tampa Bay Tribune, Tuesday, January 22, 1985
by Jim Selman, Assistant Sports Editor
Eddie Graham, one of professional wrestling's
greatest draws throughout the country from the
1950s through the early '70s, died Monday morning,
apparently from a self-inflicted bullet wound Sunday.
Graham, 55, was president of Championship
Wrestling from Florida Inc., which gained national
fame through its highly rated television matches.
Police said Graham apparently shot himself at his
home, 2410 S. Dundee.
A friend of the family, who asked not to be identified,
said Graham was despondent.
"He had a number of things troubling him. You know
he took everyone's problems on his own shoulders,"
the friend said.
Graham, who had the image of a man in a relentless
and often brutal pursuit of victory in the ring, was
also known for his compassion and benevolence
Funeral arrangements have not been announced
and will be private.
However, the Eddie Graham Memorial Florida
Sheriff's Ranch Youth Fund has been established for
contributions from friends and fans.
Gifts should be mailed to Youth Fund, Boys Ranch
Graham championed the organization and
development of the Florida Boys Ranch and Girls
Villa among many other youth-oriented projects.
He, C.P. "Cowboy" Luttrall and then Hillsborough
Sheriff Ed Blackburn spearheaded a drive in 1957 to
establish the Florida Sheriff's Boys Ranch in Live Oak.
A portion of the gate from all matches promoted in
the state by Championship Wrestling from Florida
goes to the Boys Ranch and Girls Villa.
Gordon Solie, television voice for CWF, estimated
that wrestling has produced well more than half a
million dollars for those youth ranches.
The Boys Ranch was designed after the Texas Boys
Ranch which was started in Texas by professional
wrestler Cal Farley, who hired wrestler Dory Funk Sr.
to operate it for him.
Graham became Luttrall's protege in the mid-'50s
and rose to become the North American
heavyweight champion, one of wrestling's biggest
draws in Madison Square Garden and around the
country and as president of the National Wrestling
A national wrestling publication proclaimed him as
wrestler of the year in 1961.
Graham held numerous regional titles and his
matches with the Great Malenko, Bob Orton and
others for the Southern heavyweight championship
were top draws in Tampa.
Graham and his son Mike became the sport's first
father-son tag team champions in Georgia in the
1970s. These days it is Mike who is one of the better-
known wrestlers around the country.
Graham sold L&G Promotions in 1972 in order to
devote more time to team wrestling with Mike.
Eddie Graham, whose real name was Eddie Gossett,
had not wrestled for several years, but more than
once came back from serious injuries.
An accident involving him at Fort Hesterly Armory in
1968 gained widespread attention and took him out
of wrestling for 15 months.
A 75-pound steel window fell on Graham's head
while he was putting on his shoes in the dressing
Graham, already blind in one eye, suffered torn
retinas in both eyes and such severe injuries
otherwise he needed 300 stitches around his head
Eventually, the state legislature awarded him $23,399
Graham championed amateur wrestling at the high
school and college levels and donated
approximately $10,000 to the University of Florida in
1978 for outfitting a wrestling room which came to be
known as the Eddie Graham Room.
To Graham's dismay, however, Florida dropped
wrestling a couple of years later.
He also established a $500 wrestling scholarship at
the University of Tampa.
Graham's benevolence brought him many honors
from various organizations.
The PAL gave him its achievement award in 1963 and
the Boys Clubs honored him with its Man-Boy award
In 1978, the Tampa Sports Club made Graham its
sports citizen of the year for major contributions to
In 1980, Sen. Richard Stone awarded to Graham an
American flag which flew over the White House, and
proceeds from an Eddie Graham Happy Birthday
Roast went to the leukemia fund.
The Florida Sheriff's Boys Ranch honored him in 1982.
In 1967, Graham entertained orphaned boys at Eddie
Graham's Youth Camp on Lake Leclair north of
"When I was a kid I peddled newspapers in
Chattanooga," Graham said at the time. "You know
you can get into trouble on the street. The
newspaper gave all of us memberships to the YMCA.
It was a gift to me, otherwise I wouldn't have been
able to go.
"That's the way I got to be an athlete and it is where I
had my first encounter with wrestling."
He wrestled professional the first time at the age of
17 in 1947 in Chattanooga and was paid off with a
"God gave me a decent enough body to be an
athlete," he said. "That put me in the public eye. Not
only dod I have obligations to my family, but I feel
like I can influence young people."
In addition to his widow, Lucille, and son, Mike,
Graham is survived by his mother and two brothers,
Mitch Gossett of Brooksville and Don Gossett of
Tampa and two grandchildren, Stephen and Nicole.