James Harris was a former professional wrestler who went by the ring name Kamala and was billed as “The Ugandan Giant.”
Harris had worked as a truck driver and picked cotton – occasionally resorting to petty crime – before he discovered his potential as a professional wrestler. He initially wrestled under the names Sugar Bear Harris and the Mississippi Mauler before developing his Kamala character. It was while Harris was being mentored by wrestling promoter Jerry Lawler that “The Ugandan Giant” was born, Lawler’s idea to make Harris into an exotic and fearsome opponent. His face and torso painted, the 6’7”, 380-pound Harris wore a leopard-print skirt, carried a spear, and spoke in grunts and roars, supposedly unable to understand English. He wrestled with Mid-South Wrestling and World Class Championship Wrestling before becoming a WWE star of the 1980s and ‘90s, wrestling against greats including Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant (1946 – 1993).
Harris on his character’s debut
“When I was walking to the ring that night, the police had to hold everyone back. Everyone wanted to get a look at me or take a picture. It gave me goose bumps. Lawler acted like he was scared to death of me. I was trying to keep from laughing. He was the one that created me.” —from a 2014 interview with Bleacher Report
Tributes to James Harris
Full obituary: The Washington Post