The Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame is pleased to announce that Tom Drake is the recipient of the 2008 Senator Hugh Farley Award. This honor is given annually to a professional wrestler who "has made significant contributions to society through his or her actions outside of the wrestling ring."
Tom's achievements inside the squared circle are well chronicled. Following an outstanding amateur career at the University of Chattanooga (now University of Tennessee at Chattanooga), where he captained the team in both 1951 and 1952, Drake went to the United States Olympic Finals in 1952. From 1954 until 1978 Tom grappled professionally against such greats as Gorgeous George, Freddy Blassie, Buddy Rogers and even once wrestled Lou Thesz for the World Championship.
However successful that Drake's wrestling career was, it has been only one of the many facets of his life. An outstanding football player, Tom captained the University of Chattanooga football team, played in two college All-Star games and was drafted professionally by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Following a two-year stint in the United States Army, Tom actually began his professional life as an educator. He became the University of Alabama's first wrestling coach and served as a student assistant football coach under the legendary Paul "Bear" Bryant. While at UA, Tom began to enhance his own education and ultimately completed not only his Master's Degree in Education but he also obtained a law degree in 1963.
During his last semester in law school, Tom was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives where he completed nine terms before retiring in 1998. He served as Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives for two of those terms from 1982-1987. Past PWHF honoree Len Rossi recalls Tom's years as an elected official. "I was getting over pretty good in the South working for Nick Gulas. Tom was always anxious for us to hook up and tag team for Nick in Alabama when it got close to an election. We would work every town in that state as a part of Tom's political campaign strategy. It must have worked as Tom was always reelected." Tom has practiced law for over forty-five years in Cullman, Alabama. Chris, his wife and law partner, also work their two-hundred-plus acre farm.
Drake remains active in the world of professional wrestling. Both he and his wife serve as advisors and officers on the Cauliflower Alley Club's Board of Directors. They are also loyal supporters of ongoing events sponsored by several international wrestling organizations. Tom has also served on both bank and insurance Boards of Directors in Northern Alabama.
The Alabama native has maintained a long-time friendship with recent PWHF inductee Danny Hodge. Hodge, who wrestled in the 1952 Olympic Trials remembers their first meeting well. "We were both standing in Chicago on a cold winter's day waiting for a train to Ames, Iowa where the trials were to be held", Hodge recently reflected, "My ear was bandaged from a cauliflower ear and Tom approached me and asked me if I was a wrestler. We traveled together to Ames and since neither one of us had a coach, we cheered for one another throughout the trials."
Drake looks forward to writing the story of his amazing journey while he continues to share his life with his wife, four children and four grandchildren. Athlete, performer, veteran, educator, attorney, legislator, advisor, farmer, husband, parent, and grandparent, Tom Drake has served his professions, country, community and family with a lifetime of passion and commitment. Congratulations to a truly deserving recipient of this award.
- Robert K. Oates