Florence, AL

Graves of the Famous in Alabama (Part Three)

April Killian

This is part 3 of a 3 part series (see part 1 here and part 2 here). All entrie are found on Findagrave.com. Credit given to bio authors and photographers under their screen names as found on Findagrave.com.


Paul Bearer (William Alvin Moody)
Serenity Memorial Gardens, Theodore
"Professional Wrestling/Entertainment Manager. Born William Alvin Moody, he will most likely be remembered by his ring names 'Paul Bearer' and 'Percival Pringle III', as a professional wrestling manager for World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) and World Wrestling Federation (WWF—later WWE). As a teenager, he became involved in wrestling as a ringside photographer and after high school, enlisted in the United States Air Force, serving four years and wrestling for an independent promoter during off-duty hours. In 1974 he debuted as a wrestler and went by such names as Mr. X, the Embalmer and the Mortician for a several years. After the birth of his first son, he cut back his involvement in the wrestling business in order to go to school to earn a degree in mortuary science and became certified as a funeral director and embalmer. In the mid-1980s, he resumed his career in wrestling, using his Pringle character in Florida Championship Wrestling, WCCW, and the U.S. Wrestling Association to manage several wrestlers, most notably "Ravishing" Rick Rude, The Assassin, Mark Calaway, The Great Kabuki, Blackjack Mulligan, Lex Luger, Eric Embry, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and The Ultimate Warrior. Moody made his WWF debut in 1991 as Paul Bearer, the "Manager of Champions" for The Undertaker, Kane, Vader, The Executioner and Mankind and went on to become a memorable part of that organization for the next 20 years. Moody, who at one time weighed over 500 pounds and had undergone gastric bypass surgery in 2003, was still under contract to the WWE, having signed a five-year "legends" agreement in 2011." Written by Louis du Mort on Findagrave. Full entry here.

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"Paul Bearer" graveJonathon M. (Findagrave)

Miss Baker
United States Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville
"Animal Figure. First US Animal, with her companion Miss Able (both names taken from alphabet phonetic words) to fly in space and return alive. Miss Baker, a squirrel monkey born in Iquito, Peru, was one of a pair of monkeys sent into space aboard a Jupiter rocket and brought safely back to earth on May 28, 1959. The flight reached an altitude of 300 miles, while traveling at speeds in excess of 10,000 miles per hour. They successfully withstood forces of 38 times the pull of gravity here on earth, and achieved weightlessness for a period of nine minutes. Their mission was the first to recover living beings following their return from space and paved the way for human space travel. They became immediate international celebrities, appearing on the cover of Life magazine for the week of June 15, 1959. She was chosen for her mission because of her tolerance for being confined in a small cylinder. She was also fitted with electrodes for the monitoring of her vital signs. She was specially outfitted for the mission and was observed to be only mildly startled at lift-off and at other times during the 15 minute flight. Immediately following recovery, the unflappable monkey was rewarded with a banana and a cracker, which she ate, and then rolled over and took a nap. She has been described as a "one pound stick of dynamite." Upon retiring from space travel, she resided at the Naval Aerospace Medical Center in Pensacola, Florida, until 1971. At the request of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center she was then transferred to Huntsville, AL. She remained there, in a temperature and humidity controlled environment especially built for her, for the remainder of her life. During those years, she succeeded in outliving her first husband, Big George, whom she had married in ceremonies conducted in Pensacola in 1962, and went on to take a second mate, named Norman. She graciously entertained all visitors to the Huntsville museum and was especially fond of children. She received daily fan mail. Her birthday was celebrated yearly with local dignitaries, press, and television commentators in attendance. She developed kidney failure which proved to be her final illness. She is buried at the entrance of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville along with both her husbands. It is customary for children who attend the center's Space Camp to place a banana on her gravestone in her memory. At the time of her death, at 27 years of age, she was believed to be the oldest squirrel monkey ever documented." Written by Vincent Astor.
Full entry can be found here.


Big George Baker
United States Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville
"Husband of Miss Baker, the famous space monkey." By Vincent Astor
Big George is buried beside Miss Baker and visitors often leave bananas at their graves (see photo below) Full entry at Findagrave here.

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Big George BakerDorothy (Findagrave)

Arabella the Spider
United States Space And Rocket Center, Huntsville
"Animal Figure. A common female cross (or garden) spider, it was selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to see what the effects of near-weightlessness in space would have on a spider's ability to spin webs. Sent into orbit in 1973 on the Skylab 3 space station. Named "Arabella" by NASA, the spider was initially disorientated, but eventually spun a number of webs, which were not much different symmetry-wise than Earth-spun webs, but had varied in degrees of thickness. Arabella died while in space, and her body is on display in the United States Space And Rocket Center Museum in Huntsville, Alabama." (Bio found on Findagrave.com no author noted). See full entry and photos here.

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Arabella the SpiderMay (Findagrave)

Pat Buttram (Maxwell Buttram)
Maxwell Chapel United Methodist Church Cemetery, Double Springs
"Actor, Comic. One of America's best-known comic entertainers, he is remembered as playing the humorous role of 'Mr. (Eustace) Haney' on the CBS television sitcom "Green Acres" (starring Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor) that aired from September 1965 until April 1971. Born Maxwell Emmett Buttram, he was one of seven children of a traveling Methodist minister. When he was a year old, his father was transferred to Nauvoo, Alabama. He graduated from Mortimer Jordan High School in Morris, Alabama, and then entered Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, Alabama, to study for the Methodist ministry. While there, he performed in college plays and on a local radio station, before he became a regular on the "WLS National Barn Dance" radio broadcast in Chicago, Illinois. He travelled to Hollywood, California, in the 1940s and became a "sidekick" to Roy Rogers. However, since Rogers already had two regulars, he was soon dropped, but was then picked by Gene Autry, who had recently returned from his World War II service in the Army Air Forces, as a replacement for Smiley Burnette. He went on to co-star with Autry in more than 40 films, and in over 100 television episodes from 1950 until 1955. In the late 1940s, he joined Autry on his radio show, "Melody Ranch," and then on television with "The Gene Autry Show" in 1950. His first Autry film was "Strawberry Roan" in 1948. During the first television season, he went by "Pat" or "Patrick," with a variety of last names. From the second season forward, he used his own name. He lent his voice to several Walt Disney animated features, including "The Aristocrats" (1970, as 'Napoleon,' a hound dog), "Robin Hood" (1973, as the 'Sheriff of Nottingham,' a wolf), "The Rescuers" (1977, as 'Luke' a swamp inhabitant), "The Fox and the Hound" (1981, as 'Chief,' a hunting dog), and "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" (1988, as 'Bullet #1'). He had a recurring role as the voice of 'Cactus Jake' on the animated television series "Garfield and Friends," that ran on Saturday mornings from September 1988 to December 1994. One of his last roles was a cameo in "Back to the Future Part III" (1990). His final voice-over was "A Goofy Movie" (1995) that was released a year after his death. His television credits include "The Real McCoys," "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour," and "Petticoat Junction." Throughout his career, he was in constant demand as a toastmaster and an after-dinner speaker, where his agile and sophisticated wit belied his countrified appearance. In 1982, he founded the Golden Boot Awards to honor actors, directors, stunt people, and other industry professionals who have made significant contributions to the western film genre. He was married to Dorothy McFadden from 1936 until their divorce in 1946, and then to actress Sheila Ryan from 1952 until her death in 1975. He died of renal failure at the age of 78. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to television as well as a star on the Alabama Stars of Fame in Birmingham." Written by William Bjornstad.
Full entry on Findagrave can be found here.

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"Mr. Haney" Pat ButtramJerseygirl (Findagrave)

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Buttram, Pat graveArthur Koykka (Findagrave)

Tommie Lee Aaron
Catholic Cemetery, Mobile
"Major League Baseball Player. The brother of Baseball Hall of Fame player Hank Aaron, he played seven seasons (1962 to 1963, 1965, 1968 to 1971) as a first baseman and outfielder with the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves. He finished his career with a lifetime batting average of .229, with 216 hits, 13 home runs, 94 runs batted in and 102 runs scored." (Bio found on Findagrave.com, author not noted). See full entry here.

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Tommie Lee AaronRon Moody (Findagrave)

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Aaron grave markerDave Goddard (Findagrave)

Harper Lee
Hillcrest Cemetary, Monroeville
"Author, Pulitzer Prize Recipient. She is best remembered for her classic best-selling American novel "To Kill a Mockingbird" (1960) that won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1961. Born Nelle Harper Lee, she was the youngest of four children whose father was a newspaper editor who also practiced law and served in the Alabama State Legislature. Her mother suffered from mental illness and was housebound during her childhood years. She developed an interest in English literature while attending Monroe County High School and following her graduation in 1944, she attended Huntington College in Montgomery, Alabama for a year before transferring to the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, Alabama, but did not graduate. In 1949 she relocated to New York City, New York, working as an airline reservation agent and writing in her spare time and by 1957 she completed her manuscript entitled "Go Set a Watchman" and sought to have it published. After going through several reiterations, it was finally published three years later under the new title "To Kill a Mockingbird". The novel was inspired by the racist attitudes and perceptions in her hometown during the 1930s, as seen through the eyes of two children. In 1962 the book was adapted into a film by the same name that featured Gregory Peck as the main character 'Atticus Finch'. It received eight Academy Awards nominations and won three, including Best Actor (Peck), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Art Direction. She went on to accompany her childhood friend and author Truman Capote to Holcomb, Kansas to aid him in researching material for his book "In Cold Blood" (1966) that also became a best-seller. In the 1970s and 1980s, she retreated from public life during which she worked on a nonfiction book involving an Alabama serial killer called "The Reverend" but it was never submitted for publication. In 2007 she suffered a stroke and combined with other health issues, she moved into an assisted living facility. The same year, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush and in 2010 President Barack Obama honored her with a National Medal of Arts award. Her only other published work was "Go Set a Watchmen" (2015) which turned out to be the controversial first draft of "To Kill a Mockingbird." She died of a stroke in her sleep at the age of 89. In films and television, she was portrayed by Catherine Keener in "Capote" (2005), by Sandra Bullock in "Infamous" (2006), and by Tracey Hoyt in the television movie "Scandalous Me: The Jacqueline Susann Story" (1998)." Bio by William Bjornstad on Findagrave.com. Full entry can be found here.

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Harper LeeAJ (Findagrave)

John A. Alonzo
Auburn Memorial Park Cemetery, Auburn
"Cinematographer, Actor. Born to Mexican migrant workers, John Alonzo, sometimes billed as John Alonso, began his career as an actor who appeared in many TV shows including "Dragnet", "Perry Mason", "Combat!" and "The Wild Wild West". He also acted in the films "The Magnificent Seven" (1960) and "Terror at Black Falls" (1962). One of his notable TV appearances was as Luis Gallegos in the 1961 Twilight Zone episode called "Dust". He eventually became interested in cinematography and worked as a camera operator for a while. His big break came when he worked under James Wong Howe as a camera operator in the 1966 film "Seconds" which was directed by John Frankenheimer and starred Rock Hudson. After that John found much success and worked as a cinematographer on numerous films including, Conrack (1974), Chinatown (1974), Scarface (1983), Navy Seals (1990), The Grass Harp (1995) and many others. He was also the director of photography for many films including Harold and Maude (1971), Norma Rae (1979), Zorro, the Gay Blade (1981), Overboard (1987) and Steel Magnolias (1989). In addition to being a cinematographer he also directed several films including "FM" (1978) and the 1980 TV version of Belle Starr which found Elizabeth Montgomery in the title role. He appeared and discussed his craft in the 1992 documentary "Visions of Light". The last film he worked on was "Deuces Wild" which was released in 2002. He died of natural causes." Bio written by Weldon on Findagrave.com. Full entry can be found here.

Neil Bonnett
Pleasant Grove Memorial Gardens, Pleasant Grove
"Auto Race Car Driver. He earned 18 Winston Cup Series victories during his 18-year career. Among his 18 wins were back-to-back victories in NASCAR's longest (miles) race -- the Coca-Cola 600 (1982 and 1983). He also won back-to-back Busch Clash (now Bud Shootout) races at Daytona International Speedway (1983 and 1984). His highest finish in the series points chase was in 1985 when he finished fourth and his teammate, Darrell Waltrip, won the championship. He was an original member of the Alabama Gang that include the Allisons and Red Farmer. Outside the cockpit, Bonnett developed a career as a television commentator for race broadcasts and hosted his own show, "Neil Bonnett's Winners" on The Nashville Network. He was fatally injured in a crash during practice for the 1994 Daytona 500. He was inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association's Hall of Fame in 1997." Bio written by "D" on Findagrave.com. Full entry here.

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Neil Bonnett"D" (Findagrave)

Paul "Bear" Bryant
Elmwood Cemetery, Birmingham
Longtime Winning Football Coach at the University of Alabama.
Lengthy bio with football statistics can be found here at Findagrave.com.

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Bear Bryant markerMichael Dover (Findagrave)

Jean Byronm
Mobile Memorial Gardens, Tillman's Corner
"Actress. Best remembered as 'Natalie Lane,' mother of Patty Duke on the 1960s series, "The Patty Duke Show." Before acting, she worked briefly as a singer and entertainer on a local area radio show. She made a handful of films, but her career mainly consisted of numerous guest-starring roles on television. In 1963 she began "The Patty Duke Show." The show ended in 1966. She semi-retired from acting in the late 1980s. She moved to Mobile, Alabama, to be closer to her family. She was last seen in the 1999 television reunion, "The Patty Duke Show: Still Rockin' in Brooklyn Heights." Bio written by "The Perplexed Historian" on Findagrave.com. Full entry can be found here.

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Patty Duke ShowRon Moody (Findagrave)

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Jean Butke (Imogene Burkhart)Our Family History (Findagrave)

Winston Groom
Pine Crest Cemetery, Mobile
"Author. He was best known for writing Forrest Gump which was turned into the 1994 film "Forrest Gump". The film was considered a huge success and won six Academy Awards. In 1995, he published the sequel book "Gump and Co." and he also wrote many non-fiction works on diverse subjects including the American Civil War and World War I. He served in the United States Army from 1965 to 1967, including a tour of duty in the Vietnam War from 1966 to 1967. Upon his return, he was a reporter for a Washington, DC newspaper covering the justice department and federal court system. He left to write novels and his first was published in 1978 called Better Times Than These which was about a rifle company in the Vietnam War. His next novel, As Summers Die (1980), received a better response. His book Conversations with the Enemy (1982) follows an American Vietnam War soldier who escapes from a Prisoner of War camp and takes a plane back to the United States only to be arrested 14 years later for desertion. It became a finalist in 1984 for the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction. In 1986, Forrest Gump was published, but it did not make him a best-selling author until it was adapted into a film with the same name in 1994 with Tom Hanks starring in the title role of Forrest Gump. The movie shot the novel to best-seller status, and it sold 1.7 million copies worldwide. In November 2011, he introduced a history book, Kearny's March: The Epic Creation of the American West, 1846–1847 and in 2016, El Paso, his first novel in nearly 20 years, was published." Bio written by Glendora on Findagrave.com. See full entry here. (No grave photos currently).

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Forrest Gump AuthorGlendora (Findagrave)

F. Scott Fitzgerald
Oakwood Cemetery, Montgomery
"Author. One of the most celebrated of American writers, famed for his evocative stories of the 1920s. He is usually credited with coining the term "The Jazz Age" to describe that era, which he defined as "a new generation grown up to find all Gods dead, all wars fought, all faiths in man shaken". The implications of this simmer beneath the alluring surfaces of his fiction, where hedonistic youth and the idle rich party relentlessly to escape the moral and spiritual emptiness of their lives. And it found its most eloquent expression in "The Great Gatsby" (1925), frequently cited as among the finest novels of 20th Century literature..." full bio written by Bobb Edwards along with full entry on Findagrave.com can be found here.

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F. Scott FitzgeraldBob Edwards (Findagrave)

Little Richard (Richard Wayne Penniman)
Oakwood Memorial Gardens Cemetery, Huntsville

"R&B, Gospel, Soul, Rock & Roll Singer, Songwriter, Pianist. Born Richard Wayne Penniman, the third of twelve children. His first name was supposed to have been Ricardo, but an error resulted in Richard instead. His initial musical influence was gospel. He attended Hudson High School and joined teaching band. In 1947, he was overheard sing at Macon City Auditorium and was asked to open the show that day, which he did. Thanks to Sister Rosetta Tharpe, this is what started him on his road to a very influential, long & successful career. Richard got his nickname from Buster Brown when he joined his orchestra in 1950. His first of many recording contracts was with RCA Victor. With no successful recordings at RCA his next label was Art Rupe's Specialty Records where he recorded his hit "Tutti Frutti." Penniman's first album, Here's Little Richard, was released by Specialty in May 1957. During the middle of the tour in 1957, he shocked the public by announcing he was following a life in the ministry because of things that had happened in his life. "Good Golly, Miss Molly" was also recorded while he was with Specialty. He did several foreign tours during his career and made several recordings for animated films. He appeared on TV, film, and tracks with other artists, including Jon Bon Jovi (Bon Jovi), Elton John and Solomon Burke. In 1986, Little Richard was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the first charter inductees. In 1992, he released his final album, Little Richard Meets Masayoshi Takanaka. He recorded 26 albums and appeared in 26 films, animated films and television shows. He recorded on 12 different labels." Bio written by "Deleted User" on Findagrave.com. Full entry here.

Thanks for reading my 3 part series of articles: Graves of the Famous in Alabama. Click on "Follow" to see my future articles including the Shoals area and Alabama!

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April Killian is a native of Florence, Alabama and writes about her home state of Alabama and the Shoals area. She is the mom of many pets and 3 adult children. Along with writing, she sells vintage items online and conducts estate sales in her area. She is a lifelong supporter of charity work, loves life, and tries to be a positive force in this world in everything she does! Her writing passions include: family and social issues, nature, humor, the paranormal and anything interesting or weird! Click on "follow" to see more of her articles in the future! https://www.buymeacoffee.com/Aprilkillian

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