by Scott English
In 2016, I asked a question at a stamp show I never thought I’d ask, “Excuse me, are you Hillbilly Jim?” For those of you who don’t know, Hillbilly Jim, born James Morris, was a wrestler popular in the World Wrestling Federation, now the WWE, in the 1980’s. I’m reminded of the meeting as we head into the biggest weekend of the year for professional wrestling− Wrestlemania Weekend and the induction of Hillbilly Jim into the Hall of Fame.
I have been a professional wrestling fan since I was 10 years old. In my childhood, wrestling became something of a national phenomenon as the World Wrestling Federation, now known as the WWE, rose to prominence. It all started on January 24, 1983 when Hulk Hogan won the World Heavyweight title from the Iron Sheik and the MTV crossover of “Rock-n-Wrestling” made wrestling cool for teenagers like me.
Being a wrestling fan and a stamp collector share one similarity, no one understands you if they aren’t a part of it. So, it is a bit surprising when the two worlds collided for me at World Stamp Show – NY 2016. Every ten years in the U.S., the philatelic community comes together to invite collectors and exhibitors from around the world. In May 2016, this show took place at the Javits Center in New York City for ten days.
During the show setup, the APS booth was not far from a booth operated by Champion Stamp Company, the only stamp store in all of New York City. Since the show was local, Champion purchased a large booth, so they could bring sizeable inventory. There were several large guys helping move material in and make sure no one thought about taking anything, including Morris.
In 1984, Jim Morris started appearing in the audience of WWF matches. At 6’7” and 320 pounds, he was hard to miss, but to make sure you didn’t he wore denim overalls and had a huge beard. Eventually, the popular Hogan took “Big Jim” under his wing and the world met Hillbilly Jim. He was a nice country boy, supposedly from Mud Lick, KY and was wildly popular with fans because he was a giant guy with a big smile and a great personality. Due to his popularity, the WWF added family members, like Uncle Elmer and Cousin Junior to join him in the ring, accompanied by Hillbilly Jim’s theme song, Don’t Go Messin’ with a Country Boy. Morris retired from the WWE in 1992 with occasional appearances, but he never enjoyed the same visibility he did in the 1980s.
To his credit, Hillbilly Jim did not run into some of the out-of-ring issues, like drugs, alcohol, or jail. Instead, he made appearances and greeted fans with the same warmth that he was known for in the ring. This was true even when a grown man comes up to him at a stamp booth in the Javits Center in New York. When I walked over to say hello, Jim cracked a smile and we talked wrestling, stamps, politics, and life for 30 minutes or so. When we got finished, he stood up and said, “Let’s get a picture my man” and rounded up a volunteer. Morris doesn’t frequent stamp shows, but usually provides muscle and security at coin shows around the country. He will do stamp shows if it’s a big deal. You can hear Morris every Saturday on Outlaw Country on Sirius XM Channel 60 doing Hillbilly Jim’s Moonshine Matinee.
This Friday, Morris will add Hall of Famer to his biography and I can’t think of a nicer guy. He probably won’t mention he’s been to a stamp show during his speech, but hopefully we’ll see him again soon!