Tag Archives: What’s My Line?

The Cullman Comet

15 Oct

This weekend, my friends and I drove to Starkville, Mississippi to watch the University of Tennessee play Mississippi State University in football. The best way to get there from here is to go through Alabama. Yes, Mississippi borders Tennessee but going through another bordering state is the fastest route. Weird, I know.

It is also the best route because it allows us to stop in Cullman, Alabama and eat at the All Steak Restaurant, home of the world-famous orange marmalade rolls.

Passion on a Plate

We got a lot of looks as we walked in because we were wearing the colors of our team, and that’s not something seen very often in Alabama. An elderly man wearing a crimson University of Alabama shirt took special notice and walked to our table when he was finished eating. He was a nice man who asked us where we were from and what we thought about our team. After a few minutes, we offered him a seat.

He introduced himself as Tom Drake, and we spent the lunch hearing the story of his life – one of the most interesting stories I have ever heard.

Mr. Drake was born in Cullman County and found his way from there to Chattanooga, where he played football and wrestled in college. After college, he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the army drafted him, as well. In those days, the federal government was more powerful that the NFL, so off to the army he went.

After being honorably discharged, Mr. Drake was hired by Bear Bryant to coach wrestling and football for the Crimson Tide. When we asked who was the best player he ever coached, he did not hesitate to say Joe Willie Namath. However, coaching was not his calling, and Mr. Drake went to law school.

Bear Bryant and Joe Willie Namath

While still enrolled in school, he won a seat in the state legislature and continued to be elected for 32 years.  During that time, Mr. Drake served as Speaker of the House and worked closely with infamous governor, George Wallace.

In Birmingham, they love the governor.

Now, that is an event filled life, but there was more. Mr. Drake spent his spare time as a professional wrestler. Fighting under the name “The Cullman Comet”, Mr. Drake fought against some of the most famous wrestlers of the era. He was later inducted into the International Wrestlers Hall of Fame.

The Cullman Comet

With such a wide array of talents and experiences, Mr. Drake made a perfect contestant for What’s My Line?, and he appeared on that show in the 1970s.

We barely had time to ask questions as he told story after story. However, his most important story was about his wife. They did everything together, but she died a year ago from brain cancer. He said that he still hasn’t recovered from the loss, and I got the feeling that he just needed someone to talk to. He needed to talk about his life and his memories, and I felt honored that he picked three strangers who were wearing the wrong colors.

Mr. Drake said that he is writing a book, and I hope that he finishes it. The book would chronicle a man’s life but also a piece of our history. I was reminded during lunch that history can be found anywhere. It can be found in old documents, but it can also be found in a conversation at the All Steak Restaurant in Cullman, Alabama.