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Harvey BookerBiography: Harvey Booker

Harvey Booker often went by the nickname Harvey "Wall Banger," a name he acquired from friends for being quick to brawl and notoriously libidinous. His life began in Crowder, Mississippi on July 17, 1930. His parents, Horace and Mary Ann Booker, had no other children.

In 1941, Horace left his unsuccessful career as a mechanic and moved his family to Oxford where he sold car parts for a local parts merchant. His gruff manner was legendary in Oxford, though he remained employed for his faithfulness and, as some circles recall, his resourcefulness in helping the store proprietor, J. R. Rambling, ward off loan sharks from gambling debts.

Booker obviously passed on his fiery temper to his son, whose first run-in with the law was noted in 1945, when he assaulted a young woman in front of the public library at the age of 15. During his high school years at North Yoknapatawpha, he was suspended frequently for fighting and carrying alcohol to class. He also found trouble with the Oxford police for reckless driving, assault, public drunk and malicious mischief.

Booker carried on his father's interest in automobiles, though young Harvey preferred racing cars to repairing them. He was well-known around town for his hot-rodding and fist fights on old country roads, along with his trips to Memphis for hookers. He also had a collection of bullet scars, which he gladly showed to anyone doubting his toughness. Horace Booker died in early 1952, leaving his widow alone with her increasingly troublesome son, whose alcoholism and association with loose women alienated his mother. A year later, Mary Ann became a ward of Whitfield, the state mental hospital.

Booker joined the Bowlan Glove Factory assembly crew in 1956. His work record was clean, as he kept to himself, choosing after-hours for his socializing and brawling. On New Year's Eve, 1957, Booker was picked up on assault charges with fellow factory workers Jessie Danahy and Pete Corey. Booker and Corey were reportedly the "strong men" for Danahy's crew of roughnecks.

Following the glove factory layoff in 1958, Booker took up with Danahy and Corey and worked odd jobs in New Orleans in Memphis. He joined with Danahy and Corey starting the Free Life Commune on Thacker Mountain outside of Oxford. He eventually married Janice Pitzer in 1966. Booker was arrested numerous times for growing marijuana and in 1967 he was incarcerated in the state penitentiary. He was released in 1972. He moved to Talladega, Alabama with Janice and worked at the Alabama International Motor Speedway, later named the Talladega Superspeeday until 1996. He currently lives in Talladega. His wife Janice died in 1983 from lung cancer.

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