Trouble seemed to follow Jimmie Hills. Some might say it was the other way around. While stationed at Long Beach, California in the Navy, he purchased a 1951 Mercury convertible for a mere $45.00 from a friend who was shipping out overseas.
When on duty, Jimmie rented it out to shipmates in order to raise money for gas. The deal was if they wrecked it, they paid and if it broke down they repaired it. He rented it to Sparks, who dented the fender and refused to fix it. A disagreement ensued. One night, Jimmie returned to ship brave on beer. Sparks was on Quarter Deck duty. An argument erupted and Sparks hit him. Jimmie ran to quarters, fetched his sailor’s knife and chased Sparks throughout the ship, but couldn’t catch him. Jimmy was arrested and charged with attempted murder. “That scared me half to death,” he says. “They found me guilty and sentenced me to a “Retraining Camp” for six months. It was nothing more than a Federal Pen with Marine guards.” Fortunately, a Navy review board reversed the decision and cleared his record.
Then there was the time he and fellow sailors threw firecrackers at dancing girls in Tijuana, Mexico. They were thrown in jail. “There was no floor and a bucket for a toilet,” says Jimmy. “They took my watch and $8.00 and never gave it back.”
“The Navy was the best thing that ever happened to me,” says Jimmie. “I got my GED and I learned to respect my elders.” Following his discharge in February of 1959, he drove a taxi for his cousin, Bob Trousdale in Florence. “I was making a little extra money on the side hauling and selling bootleg whiskey,” he says. One day, he picked up a man at a bootlegger’s house who paid him $75 just to ride him around. It was Charlie McCravy (the author’s cousin), a Florence barber who helped Jimmie purchase barbering tools and gave him his first job. An older barber in McCravy’s shop was so greedy that he would rub a white towel on his shoe soles, rub it on the customer’s head, then show it to him and recommend a shampoo.
“He was so afraid he would miss a customer that came in, he would urinate in a fruit jar behind the door,” says Jimmie. After nine months, Jimmie went to work at another barber shop where he learned to cut flattops – the price: 75?. One day a black 1958 Ford drove up to the grocery store next door and the prettiest girl he’d ever seen was behind the wheel. His friend, Jimmy Miller said she was Ann Burcham, the daughter of a Baptist Preacher.
Jimmy was smitten. He called and got permission to see her that night. “It was love at first sight,” says Jimmie. “We sat on the couch with her mother present and talked and talked.” Two weeks later they married in Iuka. Ann was only 16, and her mother accompanied them to Preacher Goober’s house to give parental permission. “After paying for the blood test and the marriage license, I had only $3 left,” says Jimmie. “Preacher Goober’s fee was $5. I didn’t have it. Ann’s mother handed me $5 and I handed it to the preacher. I have always teased her that she paid me to take her daughter.”
There was no money for a honeymoon. Jimmie borrowed a $100, Ann bought a new dress and they spent the rest at the County Fair. A year and a half later, he scraped up some money and they headed to the Smokies for their honeymoon, driving an old Buick. “The first motel we stopped at, the lady at the desk asked if we were on our honeymoon,” says Jimmie. “When Ann got out of the car, she was big as a barrel. The desk lady gave us a funny look.” The valves stuck on the Buick and they had to pull over and pour coal oil in the engine, let it run awhile, and then add oil.
Donna Ann was born in 1961, and Jimmy David was born October, 1962. By this time Jimmie was barbering just off the UNA campus and knocking down big money – $1.00 per haircut. Jimmie’s first celebrity hairdo was in 1973 when country singer, George Morgan and his daughter, Lorrie were in Florence giving a concert. “I don’t remember who called me to come down to the Coliseum to style George’s hair, but I jumped at the chance,” says Jimmie. “He sat on the toilet stool while I cut his hair.”
The following year, professional wrestler, Billy Tully came in the shop for a haircut and asked Jimmie to referee a wrestling match in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee the following Saturday night. It was his first refereeing experience.
“The match was between Dr. Ken Ramey and the Interns,” says Jimmie. “One of the Interns grabbed me and tossed me out of the ring. My head hit a chair and I ended up at the hospital in Florence gett’n four stitches in my right ear.” A couple of years later, Jimmie became the manager of “The Outlaws,” a masked team. “At Rogersville, fans got so upset they jumped the wrestlers and we had to fight our way back to the dressing room. The police put us in a police car and took us out of town where no one would attack us.”
Then Jimmie got his big chance to wrestle at a match in Lewisburg, Tennessee. The team was short a man and Jimmie was put in. “One of the wrestlers accidentally kicked me and broke three of my ribs. It hurt like the Devil. Fans nicknamed me “Cry Baby Hills.” When anything went wrong I’d kick the ropes and make like it hurt my foot and grab my face like I was crying. “They’d bring baby bottles and some of the women even took out their breasts and shook ‘em at me. I’d tell ‘em they were ugly – anything to make ‘em mad.”
Jimmy was attacked in Ripley, Mississippi. “When fans were coming into the ring after us, the other wrestlers came over to help us. It was Butch Boyette that really saved us when he brought out a 2×4. We got escorted out of many towns.” Jimmie enraged fans by throwing his boa constrictor, “Julius Squeezer,” on opposing wrestlers.
While wrestling Ricky Singleton in Rogersville, a fan came up behind Jimmie and grabbed his arm. “I turned and grabbed ‘em and gave ‘em a finger in the eye and a knee in the crotch. Ricky got ahold of me and started wrestling me. He saved me that night.” Singleton is currently Police Chief of Florence. Jimmie “Cry Baby Hills,” weary of broken ribs and irate fans, gave up wrestling in 1984.
Earlier, country music legend George Jones had split with his wife, Tammy Wynette and moved to Florence, where he was friends with another country music legend, songwriter Peanutt Montgomery and his famous sister, Melba Montgomery. Jimmie had been friends with Peanutt and Melba since childhood. “Peanutt told George about me,” says Jimmie.
Up next: part 3!
By: Jerry Barksdale