Old photo of a man in a baseball cap reaching for something on a shelf

Harvey Booker

Harvey Booker often went by the nickname "Harvey Wallbanger," 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, Harvey's father left his unsuccessful career as a mechanic and moved his family to Oxford, where he sold car parts for a local parts merchant. Horace's gruff manner was legendary in Oxford. However, 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, Harvey was suspended frequently for fighting and carrying alcohol to class. He also found trouble with the sheriff's department for reckless driving, assault, public drunk, and malicious mischief.

Booker inherited 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 fistfights on old country roads, along with his trips to Memphis for hookers. He also had a collection of bullet scars, which he gladly displayed 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.

Harvey joined the Bowlan Glove Factory assembly crew in 1956. His work record was clean as he kept to himself on the job, choosing after‑hours for his socializing and brawling.

On New Year's Eve 1957, Harvey was picked up on assault charges with fellow factory workers Jessie Danahy and Pete Corey. Booker and Corey were reportedly the strongmen 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 and Memphis.

Later, 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.

After he got out of prison, Harvey moved to Talladega, Alabama, with Janice and worked at the Alabama International Motor Speedway — later named the Talladega Superspeedway — until 1996 when he retired.

Harvey currently lives in Talladega. His wife Janice died in 1983 from lung cancer.

 

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