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
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
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
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."