L: Gentleman Jim Lewis

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Anything But a Gentleman

Gentleman Jim Lewis

The blonde locks, the posing and the look, Gentleman Jim Lewis was a  gentleman by name if not by nature. It took only the swagger of an over-confident champion, the flicking of the blonde hair and the slow-motion use of the mirror and comb as he preened himself for Jim to have the crowd at fever pitch.  Bernard Hughes saw Gentleman Jim in the 1950s at Newcastle  and remembered, “Jim Lewis would come into the ring with long blonde hair and his second would hold his mirror during periods between rounds whilst Jim combed his hair.I have no doubt that this was an act, perhaps a copy of Gorgeous George,from the USA.”

Having made his majestic entrance, with the introductions and preliminary preening over Jim would burst in to action as soon as the bell rang for the opening round. Knee, fist and elbows were right up there amongst Jim’s favoured moves. The blind-side moves, blatant punches and more of the swagger would confirm that here was the villain of the night.  Keep in mind that all this took place at a time when  those other blonde haired bad boys, Adrian Street and Bobby Barnes were still at home doing their homework. Gentleman Jim was British wrestling’s original  nature boy.

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Wrestler Eddie Rose lived close to Jim and was a good friend for many years,  “Gentleman Jim was a larger than life character who was at his best in the '50s and early '60s. He wrestled all over the UK and was often billed at the World Welterweight Champion. He was a very good wrestler and a great showman. He was a great personal friend and helped me at the start of my wrestling career. He introduced me to many useful contacts in the business and encouraged me to go to Grant Foderingham’s gym.”

Eddie kindly supplied the accompanying photo of Jim and his wife, Josey, at his wedding in 1964.

Jim Lewis learned to wrestle at the Manchester YMCA. We watched him in the 1960s, his twilight wrestling years. By then the hair could more accurately be described as silvery, his movement was slower and more self assured than in his youth,  but  he was a  still a class act and we wouldn’t have believed just how long he had been around. We can now go back to June, 1940 for our earliest discovery of Jim Lewis, unceremoniously knocked out by local favourite Bill Ogden at the Broadway Palace in Chester. Born on 31st January, 1917 he was already 23 years old and so may already have been around a few years.
A regular at Belle Vue during the Second World war when peace was reached Jim became a busy worker, mainly in northern England and the midlands. Frequent opponents were the Hanley lads Bill Ogden, Jack Santos, George Goldie and Jim Mellor.  Precisely when he morphed into Gentleman Jim Lewis we couldn’t say, but certainly no later than 1952. In the 1950s he wrestled the best in the welterweight division; Alan Colbeck, Jack Dempsey, Tony Lawrence, George Kidd and the like, now travelling much further afield from the southern coast of England to northern Scotland and billed as  “Wrestling’s greatest personality.”

Along the way Jim was crowned world welterweight champion, a title he was to hold for more than a decade.  Yet despite the colour and the ability Jim did not always receive the recognition from promoters that might have been expected.  That’s because his clashes extended beyond the wrestling ring.  In 1959 Jim Lewis led  the Wrestlers Welfare Association, one of many  short lived attempts by wrestlers to form  a union. This led to a period in exile amongst the independent promoters.  Here at Wrestling Heritage we believe his union activities did present an obstacle which prevented Jim Lewis becoming a star of television wrestling.

During this period he began promoting his own wrestling shows, putting on tournaments at many clubs in and around Manchester.

The last we heard of Gentleman Jim in a wrestling capacity was in the early 1970s  performing the role of Manager of the Bengal Tigers tag team. He still looked like a film star.

Following his retirement from wrestling he worked for the British Shoe Machinery Company in Leicester. Jim Lewis was born in January, 1917 and died at Leicester Royal Infirmary on 10th September, 1982. Our thanks to Jim's son for this cutting from the 1971  BSMC staff magazine.
Page added: 1/11/2020