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"Self-inflicted gunshot kills Eddie Graham"
by Jim Selman, Assistant Sports Editor

Tampa Bay Tribune, Tuesday, January 22, 1985

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 beyond it.

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 Fla., 32060.

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 Alliance.

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 room.

Graham, already blind in one eye, suffered torn retinas in both eyes and such severe injuries otherwise he needed 300 stitches around his head and face.

Eventually, the state legislature awarded him $23,399 in damages.

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 1970.

In 1978, the Tampa Sports Club made Graham its sports citizen of the year for major contributions to amateur wrestling.

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 Tampa.

"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 25-pound turkey.

"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.


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