This week after his valiant heath and financial issues battle, the wrestling world lost ‘Kamala’ James Harris. Cauliflower Alley Club and, more recently, the kind people at GoFundMe type accounts set up for his family, who donated badly-needed financial aid, including fellow wrestlers, promoters, fans, and more who loved the “Ugandan Head Hunter.” Today I am missing my friend, James ‘Kamala’ Harris.
In reality, the real James truly loved his primary role as a long-time farmer and head of his family. He was regarded as one of the nicest, sweetest people in the biz, cracking up others in the dressing room. He said on my national radio show with Evan Ginzberg in 2012 –
“There’s nothing better than growing things, whether vegetables, fruit trees or farm animals from the ground up. Whatever it is. You get satisfaction in caring for these things and seeing them help other people later on. And if there’s anything more important than growing things, it’s my family.”
James ‘Kamala’ Harris
He was born May 28, 1950, in Senatobia, MS, where he’d proudly spend much of his life. Any time he was on one of my radio shows over the years, besides singing some of his R and B creations, he always put Senatobia over, and not just for the cheap pop. He told Evan Ginzburg and me on another appearance in 2013 that ours was the first public platform that he ever broke kayfabe and spoke in English since adopting his Kamala character.
When he was 25, after some admitted, wasted years as a young adult, he began driving trucks and doing other hard work to support his family. He moved briefly to Benton Harbor, MI, meeting it’s most famous resident Bobo Brazil. Wrestling’s first Black World Champion Bobo (WWA in the 1960s along with Bearcat Wright) convinced him to have his pal ‘Tiny’ Tim Hampton train him to wrestle. He debuted in 1978 as Sugar Bear Harris but would have a succession of ring names like Big Jim Harris, the Mississippi Mauler, Superfly, Bad News, and more.
Bill “Paul Bearer” Moody as Percy Pringle was the first of a ton of Jim’s managers for him that would later include Fred Blassie, Gary Hart, The Baron (Von Raschke – for like two weeks in WWF), Sika, Mr. Fuji, Eddie Creatchman in International, and many others. James worked all over Europe in 1981 to finesse his mat and chain skills, including wrestling as The Mauler in the UK’s beloved Joint Promotions. He was in the main event title tournament at London’s Wembley Arena, just losing out in the finals for that group’s world title.
In Memphis, promoting legends and great minds, Jerry Jarrett and Jerry Lawler created the Kamala character. The King had offered him a job there, and the Jerry’s soon crafted his most famous character (originally spelled Kimala) based on Great Mephisto aka Frankie Kane. The Ugandan headhunter gimmick wore colorful face and body paint lifted from a famous Frank Frazetta painting where they claimed he was a former bodyguard for brutal dictator Idi Amin. And discovered by JJ Dillon “after an African excursion.” My friend, JJ, have you ever been to Africa?! I’ll ask you that in person at our next CAC in Vegas once Covid19 “magically disappears.”
The First Promo
Watch WMC-TV’s first promo video showing a spear-wielding Kamala arising from the “steamy jungle”. That was filmed at Jarrett’s Hendersonville, TN farm. The steam effect for the jungle? That was dry ice! Kimala’s CWA Memphis debut was May 14, 1982, with JJ as a manager. A no-disqualification match against Lawler at packed Mid-South Coliseum. The Tennessee magic went global from there after several title reigns and sell-outs to Bill Watt’s Mid-South. Whether it was the Von Erich’s World Class, Verne Gagne’s AWA, and of course his various WWF stands. This included main-eventing with Hulk Hogan, Jake Roberts, Bret Hart, Randy Savage, The Undertaker, and more.
And he worked many tours for Giant Shohei Baba in All Japan. At times he was teaming with Abdullah the Butcher and Kamala #2 (Ben Peacock). What a character James was and will always be remembered for perfecting! Before I forget, although others played the non-speaking secondary faux-African “handler” in the masked Kim Chee like Steve Lombardi.
We’ll always miss our brother and friend James terribly, who was so much more than just Kamala. And hope he’s finally comfortable now — only one of a kind and on all cylinders.
GOFUNDME CAMPAIGN FOR KAMALA SET UP
A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help the family of James “Kamala” Harris. It’s purpose is to cover funeral expenses following his death last Sunday. The goal is to reach $25,000, and as of press time, over $25,000 has been collected from over 400 different donors. Chris Jericho donated $5,000 again, similar to what he did in the last campaign for Kamala. Impact’s Scott D’Amore and Ryan Barkan of ProWrestlingTees.com each donated $2,500, and an anonymous donor donated $3,000.
This is not the first time that a GoFundMe campaign was set up for the Ugandan Giant. As wrestling fans also gave a helping hand when Harris had several health issues throughout the past few years. You can contribute to the campaign by going here.