James Dudley Death – Undisclosed Causes
1910-2004 (Age 94)
Who was WWE Hall of Famer James Dudley? A long-lost member of the Dudley Boyz? No, Dudley was an essential player in WWE history, dating back to his time working alongside Jess McMahon followed by Vincent J. McMahon and eventually, Vincent Kennedy McMahon.
James Dudley entered the world on May 12, 1910, and while he would be an unknown quantity to most wrestling fans, he was one of the most important individuals in the McMahon wrestling dynasty.
From Baseball to Professional Wrestling
Dudley played for the semi-professional baseball team, the Baltimore Elite Giants. After working for Jess McMahon (who was a boxing and concert promoter) in the early 1940s, James relocated to Washington, D.C. in 1945 and began working for Jess’ son, Vince McMahon Sr.
Dudley worked several roles for Sr., serving as McMahon’s chauffeur, bodyguard, confidante, and later as the promoter for Washington, D.C.’s Turner Arena, becoming as his profile at WWE.com mentions “the first African-American to run a major arena in the United States.”
Dudley also served as the manager for Bobo Brazil, Sweet Daddy Siki, Bearcat Wright, and Sailor Art Thomas.
According to his obituary in the June 14, 2004, Wrestling Observer Newsletter, James’ loyalty to Vince McMahon Sr. was strong that “Dudley once remarked that if his own father or Sr. were in a position where he could only save one of their lives, he would save Sr.”
Dudley’s Loyalty to Wrestling Royalty
Dudley’s loyalty was rewarded with Vince Sr. asking his son to make sure Dudley was taken care of for the rest of his life once he bought the WWF. As noted in a profile on Dudley:
Vincent J. McMahon stayed close to Dudley. And when the promoter died of cancer in a Miami-area hospital in 1984, Dudley got a call from his ex-boss’s wife that let him know just how fondly he was remembered. “She told me that before Vince died, he told his son, ‘Whatever else you do, you take care of James Dudley,’” Dudley recalls. “And then three days after the funeral, the son called up and told me he intended to do what his daddy said.”
Rewarding Dudley’s Loyalty
Vince followed his dad’s wishes and Dudley would remain on the WWF payroll for the rest of his life and become a member of the first full class of the WWF Hall of Fame (Andre the Giant was the sole entrant in the inaugural class of 1993).
In a 2002 article profiling Dudley, Vince McMahon praised Dudley’s contributions to the WWE, “Had there been no James Dudley, the WWF possibly wouldn’t exist as it does today.”
In 2002, James Dudley appeared in a vignette on SmackDown. This wasn’t the first time he’d been involved in wrestling. However, it was arguably his most high-profile appearance.
The Death of James Dudley
On June 1, 2004, James Dudley passed away at age 94 from undisclosed causes. He was survived by many offspring including “37 grandchildren, 34 great-grandchildren, and 16 great-great-grandchildren.”
What do you think of this largely unknown figure who played a key role in WWE history? Let us know in the comments below.