Houston Harris (July 10, 1924 – January 20, 1998) was an American professional wrestler, better known by his ring name Bobo Brazil. He is credited with breaking down barriers of racial segregation in professional wrestling. Harris is considered one of the first successful African American professional wrestlers, and is often referred to as “the Jackie Robinson of professional wrestling”.
Harris was trained by Joe Savoldi after meeting him at matches at the Naval Armory. Originally, Harris was to be known as “Boo-Boo Brazil”, but a promoter misprinted his first name as “Bobo” in an advertisement and it stuck.
Early in his career, some wrestling promoters would match Brazil against fellow African American wrestlers, including Ernie Ladd and Abdullah the Butcher. Fans clamored to see Brazil face opponents of any type and Brazil would have many matches with competitors such as Killer Kowalski, **** the Bruiser, Johnny Valentine, and The Sheik, who feuded with Brazil over the course of several decades. These and other rivals would all fall victim to Brazil’s finishing maneuver, the Coco Butt. Brazil also once wrestled Bill Miller to a draw, and challenged Bruno Sammartino for the WWWF Championship in a battle of two top babyface competitors.
On October 18, 1962, Brazil made history by becoming the first African American to win the NWA World Heavyweight Title by defeating “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers (this distinction is usually given to Ron Simmons, the first recognized African American world champion after winning the WCW World Heavyweight Championship). Although Brazil initially refused the title (because of an “injury” that Rogers had claimed to have), Brazil was awarded the title the next day after doctors had found nothing wrong with Rogers. However, this title change is not recognized by the NWA.
On October 9, 1970, Brazil and El Mongol defeated Mr. Ito and The Great Ota in the first racially mixed match in Atlanta history.
Brazil served as a mentor to wrestler “Soulman” Rocky Johnson. Brazil’s manager was James Dudley, the first African American to be in charge of a major arena in the United States. Dudley would run to the ring waving a towel, as Brazil followed behind.
Brazil retired in 1993 after a four decade career. His last official match was in Chicago, Illinois against Kelly Kiniski, son of rival Gene Kiniski. Brazil was inducted into the WWF Hall of Fame in 1994 by Ernie Ladd. The following year, Brazil inducted Ladd into the WWF Hall of Fame.