Friday, August 05, 2022

Remembering Peggy Lathan: The First Lady of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling

On the occasion of Peggy Lathan being honored at the "Night to Remember" banquet at the Gathering in Charlotte on 8/5/22, we thought we'd revisit our tribute to "the First Lady of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling" that appeared on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway in the days following her untimely death in 2021. 

We're thinking of Clay and Tommy tonight, as well as Jean and all of Peggy's many friends, as they honor Peggy at the Gathering.

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Remembering Peggy Lathan: The First Lady of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling
by David Chappell
Mid-Atlantic Gateway

Peggy Lathan never wrestled a match for Jim Crockett Promotions, she never cut a promo on the set of the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling television show, and she never refereed, booked or ring announced a Mid-Atlantic bout. But the shadow she cast over the enduring legacy of the Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling territory is every bit as profound as all of those that did.  

When I received the news that Peggy had passed away yesterday, it was as if time just stood still. Many of you that are reading this knew Peggy, or at least knew of her. For those of you that didn’t have the pleasure of knowing Peggy, to know her was to love her. As I was embarking on my lengthy commute to work early yesterday, I had deep thoughts of Peggy and her dad come over me and the health issues they were battling. I remember the exact time and stretch of I-95 I was on when those thoughts rushed over me. I later found out that same time was the time Peggy was found unresponsive in her home. Coincidence? Perhaps. But I think not.

Peggy Lathan and David Chappell

It's not an exaggeration to say that the Mid-Atlantic Gateway as you see it now would not exist, or at the very least would not have flourished as it has for twenty-one years, without the behind-the-scenes assistance of Peggy Lathan. I was told by Peggy that the first time we were “together” was at a show in Hartwell, Georgia when I was there to interview the Masked Superstar, Bill Eadie, for the Gateway. Peggy recognized me at that show from a photo or two of myself that was on the Gateway, the site that Dick Bourne and I created in 2000 still being very much in its infancy then. Peggy in later years scolded me for not talking to her at that show. My first instinct was to tell her that I didn’t know who she was at that time, so why would I just come up and talk to her out of the blue? I’m glad I didn’t argue that point with her, as I soon came to learn that Peggy never met a stranger. Even being a lawyer who argues for a living, that’s an argument I would have lost.

When I got to know Peggy, I discovered a wresting sister that matched my unbridled love of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling. We both worked in the legal field that provided us many common experiences, but Mid-Atlantic Wrestling was our unbreakable bond. While we were at the geographical extremes of the Crockett territory, me living north of Richmond, Virginia and Peggy residing southwest of Greenville, South Carolina our passion for Crockett wrestling crossed the many miles between us. I was immediately drawn in by Peggy’s bubbly personality, her infectious smile and laugh and that incredible Upstate South Carolina drawl! But more so I was captivated by her unique relationship with Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling.

Peggy would often tell me that we both had the “sickness,” another way of saying our love for Mid-Atlantic Wrestling was a bit on the extreme side. But my experience as a Mid-Atlantic fan back in the day couldn’t have been more different than Peggy’s. I admired my wrestling heroes from afar, never daring to have any real contact with these larger-than-life icons other than watching them on TV and seeing them from a general admission seat on Friday nights at the Richmond Coliseum. 

In contrast, Peggy would tell me about her weekly front row seats at multiple Upstate South Carolina venues, and her friendships with the wrestlers and their families! Friendships that continued long past the demise of Jim Crockett Promotions. And the stories she could tell. My eyes must have been as big as saucers as I hung on every word of Peggy’s Mid-Atlantic tales! But Peggy was far more than a mere storyteller to me and the Mid-Atlantic Gateway.

When the young Gateway started to gain its footing in the early 2000s, many of the “boys” were intrigued by the site but skeptical of our motives. Many would openly opine that we wanted to make money off them by talking to them. Peggy Lathan came to the rescue. I soon learned that when Peggy “put you over,” you needed no further stamp of approval from anyone within the business. Many early interviews that I did on the Gateway, were as a direct result of Peggy vouching for our site and its sole purpose being to preserve the rich history of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling. 

Never having the gumption to seek out my Mid-Atlantic heroes back in the 1970s, Peggy did it for me about thirty years later. Peggy ingratiated me with such Mid-Atlantic icons as Johnny Weaver, Rip Hawk, Paul Jones, Don Kernodle, Ivan Koloff, Tommy Young and Ole Anderson just to name a few. Many of these icons became dear friends of mine, and the interaction I was able to have with my wrestling heroes is something that means the world to me. To this day, I have trouble comprehending that those friendships happened. One thing is for sure, they wouldn’t have happened without Peggy.

Along those lines, my all-time favorite memory involving Peggy occurred at one of the early Charlotte Fanfests. With Peggy’s help, the legendary Rip “The Profile” Hawk had become a cherished friend of mine who I was able to interview for the Gateway and kept in close contact with. Rip got booked for that Fanfest and was flying into Charlotte for two days at the most. While Johnny Weaver was not coming to that Fanfest, he worked for the Mecklenburg County, North Carolina Sheriff’s Office close by. Peggy and I co-conspired to try and get Rip and Johnny, arch-rivals in the 1960s and early 1970s, together for the first time in decades!

Suffice it to say, this reunion between Johnny and Rip was not an easy one to pull off logistically. At times it felt like Peggy and I were trying to put together a summit for two superpower leaders, and in a manner of speaking that’s exactly what we were doing. At least superpowers in the world of Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling! After several fits and starts, Johnny and Rip were united over breakfast near the site of Fanfest. The sight of Rip and Johnny seeing each other after decades was worth all the effort Peggy and I put in and much, much more. Not only did I get to see two Mid-Atlantic legends reunited, but thanks to Peggy, two of my wresting heroes turned friends.

Several years after that I had the occasion to visit Peggy and her mom and dad when they toured Washington, D.C. and I made the trip up from Richmond. Peggy was a devoted daughter to both her parents, and that was never more on full display when both her parents had serious health issues befall them in recent times. That day in northern Virginia the love between all three of them was in full display. I still remember Peggy’s mom extolling the virtues of “Skins" hot dogs down their way during that visit. And Helen, I promise you I will eat several in your memory before all is said and done!

Dick Bourne and Peggy Lathan

During the intervening years and right up to Peggy’s passing, she was a selfless and invaluable asset to me and the Mid-Atlantic Gateway. Peggy came into possession of a treasure trove of Mid-Atlantic Wrestling audio cassettes from the mid-1970s and she immediately gave them away to Dick Bourne and me for use on the site. She has provided us many photos and other memorabilia in addition to authoring numerous articles for the Gateway. She helped edit and proof several of the Mid-Atlantic Gateway books. When it was announced that Dick and I were going to be included in the 2016 Hall of Heroes class, predictably Peggy was the first one to call and offer her congratulations.

Life is fleeting, and that was proven again yesterday with Peggy’s sudden and unexpected passing. In recent years my connection with Peggy was not to the level it had been previously, and I regret that. A lot of miles separated us, but anyone that knows me knows I’m not adverse to long road trips. I have a cell phone that’s pretty much an appendage to my body with calling, texting and emailing capabilities. It’s often said we need to let important people in our lives know how much they mean to us while they are alive, because they could be gone tomorrow. Today is that “tomorrow” for Peggy and me, and I hope she knew how much I loved her. I believe that she did. 

The professional wrestling fraternity is unique, and it’s an extended family that defies any neat definition or categorization. While we all come from every background imaginable, we are tight…very tight. And today we collectively mourn Peggy’s passing. And while Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling was a business, it was a family-run business. The fans meant a great deal back in the day, and with the advent of the Internet we fans have come together now as we couldn’t in earlier times. Every gathering of Mid-Atlantic fans from now on will have an unimaginable gap in it, but Peggy’s memory will burn brightly for all of us. Thank you, my wrestling sister, for all you did to bring untold hours of Mid-Atlantic Wresting joy to my life. We’ve lost an incomparable Jim Crockett Promotions super-fan, but Heaven has received a Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling angel like no other.

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Articles by Peggy Lathan
on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway

From time to time, I would nag Peggy to write something for the Gateway. She had so many wonderful stories to tell. She never wanted to do it, but would eventually relent, and then of course was always happy to see the positive reaction they got. I wish now I had nagged her to write more. Here they are.
Other Gateway Features Involving Peggy

Photo Albums
Peggy's Favorites (1978-1981)
From the mid-1970s to the early 1980s, Peggy took lots of photographs of the wrestlers she knew, many of them in candid moments in the back. These were some of her favorites. (Page is on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway Archives Website)

Peggy's Ric Flair Photo Album
While Don Kernodle, Johnny Weaver, and Tommy Young became three of her best friends and part of her extended family, it was Ric Flair that was always her favorite in the ring. And she later became good friends with the Nature Boy, too. Anyone remember Ric stopping during his big speech at his first Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Legends Fanfest in Charlotte in 2008 to go and hug Peggy? That was a cool moment. These were some of her favorite photos she took of Ric in his first 4-5 years with Jim Crockett Promotions. (Page is on the Mid-Atlantic Gateway Archives Website)