Harley Race, a legend in the world of professional wrestling, died on Thursday due to complications from lung cancer. He was 76.
His death was announced on Race’s Twitter account on Thursday.
“Today at 12:50, we lost the man that fought up until the very last of his existence,” the tweet read. “More information will be released soon, but just know that he loved pro-wrestling and the fans that loved him. Harley Race, we love you.”
World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) also shared the news in a statement on Thursday, noting that Race was an eight-time National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) world heavyweight champion.
According to CNN, Race had begun his wrestling career by age 15, but he was forced to leave the ring after a devastating car accident in 1961 that killed his wife, Vivian Jones, and shattered his legs.
“To this day, the accident and my rehabilitation are parts of my life that are painful to think about,” he wrote in his 2004 book King of the Ring: The Harley Race Story, CNN reported. “I just know I tried to concentrate on my rehabilitation so I wouldn’t dwell on the loss of my wife.”
Today at 12:50, we lost the man that fought up until the very last of his existence. More information will be released soon, but just know that he loved pro-wrestling and the fans that loved him.— Harley Race (@8XNWAChampion) August 1, 2019
Harley Race, we love you
Even though doctors told him there was a chance he would never walk again after the accident, Race returned to the ring in 1964.
“During the 1970s and early 1980s, Race was the National Wrestling Alliance’s most dominant champion, winning the sport’s oldest World Heavyweight Championship from the likes of Dory Funk Jr., Giant Baba, Terry Funk, Dusty Rhodes and Ric Flair,” the WWE said in its statement.
Race was so “universally respected” that the WWE recognized his prestigious NWA titles even after the organization seceded from the NWA.
After his success in the NWA, Race joined the newly-formed WWE in 1986 in what was an “unthinkable” move at the time, the WWE said this week.
“Today We Lost Not Only A Great Personal Friend, But In My Estimation The One And Only REAL World Champion,” Flair wrote. “Without Harley Race, There Was No Ric Flair. I Tried My Hardest Every Day To Live Up To His Standard In The Ring.”
Wrote Hogan: “RIP HARLEY, love you my brother.”
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Today We Lost Not Only A Great Personal Friend, But In My Estimation The One And Only REAL World Champion. Without Harley Race, There Was No Ric Flair. I Tried My Hardest Every Day To Live Up To His Standard In The Ring. pic.twitter.com/vUnQFuM0CT— Ric Flair® (@RicFlairNatrBoy) August 1, 2019
RIP HARLEY,love you my brother HH— Hulk Hogan (@HulkHogan) August 1, 2019
“He kept fighting till the end,” Race’s son Jason told CNN of his father. “He is the most genuine human being I know. I don’t even think he knew the impact he has had on others.”
Jason told the network that Race was surrounded by his partner, Rose, along with family and friends at the time of his death.