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Clay Coppedge



Texas | Columns | "Letters from Central Texas"

Elmer "Pet" Brown:
The Idol of His Fans

by Clay Coppedge

One of the biggest sporting events ever held in Williamson County took place in May of 1914 in Taylor when a well-liked and highly respected local lad by the name of Elmer D. "Pet" Brown faced off against Mike Yokel of Utah for the welterweight wrestling championship of the world at the Taylor Opera House.

That such a high-profile event should be taking place in Taylor might sound odd, but Taylor was the center of wrestling activity in the state in the early twentieth century. "There was a wrestler in almost every block in Taylor, Texas," Langdon Richter wrote of those years in Taylor. "There was no ring and no mat and it didn't matter. They just wrestled on the ground and never knew the difference."

In a town full of wrestlers, Pet Brown was the best. By far. Even carnival wrestlers avoided taking him on because they knew there was nothing to be gained by doing so. He dethroned Jim Downing for the Texas title and whipped up on Greek champion William Demetral and then worked his way through a field of would-be champions until he was paired with Yokel for the world title in Taylor.

Yokel claimed to have suffered a concussion in the bout and forfeited.

Brown was universally respected by his opponents to the point where there was no shame in not only praising him but avoiding matches with him altogether. Future world light heavyweight champion John Kilonis offered $100 to anybody who could produce a challenger he wouldn't wrestle, with one exception. "I bar no one except Pet Brown of Texas," he said. "I take my hat off to him."

"The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: Heroes and Icons" (from which most of this material is taken) has this to say about Brown: "What made Brown so capable, besides a seemingly endless wind, was his ability to casually slip on a variety of holds, half-nelsons and hammerlocks among them. The secret to that was a pair of powerful hands that could wrench the life out of the unsuspecting."


The only match Brown ever lost was to a Wyoming rancher named Clarence Eklund, who specialized in using his legs as a weapon. That happened in 1917. Brown mostly retired from wrestling after that. He bought four mules and started a road-building business to handle all the new-fangled Model T automobiles that were suddenly everywhere. He hired Black men and convicts to do the labor and was said to have been remarkably color blind for his day.

Even as a businessman, Brown remained an object of awe. Once challenged by a group of local boys to lift a discarded sledgehammer, Brown stuck out his hand and said, "Put it there." With some degree of difficulty, the boys managed to hoist the hammer to Brown, who held it that way, one arm extended, for several seconds before dropping it and walking away laughing.


On May 5, 1923, Brown had a verbal altercation with a constable named J.J. Sharkey near Cisco. Sharkey threatened to arrest his Black employees for shooting craps at their camp but was willing to let them go if they paid a field fine. Brown took exception and charged that the lawmen were doing nothing more than shaking his workers down and keeping the money for themselves.

Still, Brown agreed to pay the fines in court if his employees were not arrested. But things went horribly wrong. Accounts vary a little in the details, but it seems that Brown took hold of Sharkey's arm to lead him through a doorway but Sharkey reacted as if he were being attacked. He pulled a gun and shot Brown through the heart, killing him.

Sharkey pleaded self-defense and won. More than a thousand people showed up for a memorial service in Taylor for Brown the next day. The shock waves ran deep in the wrestling world. The Wrestling News eulogized: "Pet Brown was for years the most popular wrestler in the South and Southwest. And all through the state of Texas he was the idol of his fans."

Clay Coppedge
"Letters from Central Texas" January 12, 2023 column


Clay Coppedge's "Letters from Central Texas"

  • Rattlesnakes, Bandits, and Big Bend's Hot Springs 12-7-22
  • The Forgotten Team of Texas 11-9-22
  • The Long Gone Texon Oilers 10-12-22
  • Slingin' Sammy Baugh 9-25-22
  • El Diablo gets his due 8-10-22

    more »

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