Florentine pens book about legendary ‘Peahead’
As a young sports writer covering Wake Forest sports in the 1980s, Tucker Mitchell became intrigued by stories of the late “Peahead” Walker. Those stories and more are now featured in his newest book, “Peahead! The Life and Times of a Southern-Fried Coach,” from Wake Forest Digital Publishing and Library Partners Press.
D.C. “Peahead” Walker was an American coaching legend in the middle of 20th century. His story was lost in the mists of time, but now comes to life in Tucker’s biography.
Walker coached – and played – football and baseball during some of the liveliest times in American sports history. He battled his way through the Great Depression and World War II and, for better or worse, helped shepherd big-time college athletics into the modern age.
He was an excellent coach who made winners out of perpetual underdogs Elon and Wake Forest, and who took the moribund Montreal Alouettes to three straight Canadian Football League title games. But Walker’s on-field work often paled in comparison to his reputation as a story teller and iconic coaching personality.
“Peahead stories” were a staple for banquet speakers (including Walker himself), sports journalists and a generation of fans who grew up during and just after Walker’s years on center stage.
All that comes to life in Mitchell’s treatment of Walker, the first-ever biography of this legendary figure. It’s based on exhaustive research and interviews with more than 60 individuals who played for, or knew Walker at some point during his career. Among those interviewed: Arnold Palmer, former Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden, former Tennessee Coach Johnny Majors, Canadian Football Hall of Famer Hal Patterson, former Wake Forest Athletic Director Gene Hooks, “Mr. Wake Forest” Ed Wilson, and former Alabama Governor Fob James.
“I had a great time talking to the men (and a few women) who knew Peahead,” Mitchell commented. “Most were in their late 70s or early 80s, but still had great memories of this unique and entertaining man. I spent some great days in the company of these folks, hearing their stories and making a few new friends.
“Peahead is a biography and a sports book,” he continued. “But it's also history and nostalgia. It delves into a lot of history of college football and more. I think any sports fan would find it a fascinating read. It's built around a bunch of very entertaining stories.”
Mitchell has resided in the Florence area since 2010 when he moved here to become editor of the Morning News and manage the editorial product of the company’s four other weeklies in the area.
He was born in West Virginia, but lived most of his life in North Carolina.
“When people ask, I usually say I’m from Greensboro. I grew up there and went to college at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem,” he said.
Tucker worked in the newspaper industry from college until 2013 when he left to join the staff of Francis Marion University where he is Executive Director of Public Relations.
In 2002, he and his wife Cindy started a weekly newspaper in the Charlotte suburb of Huntersville called the Huntersville Herald and later a second weekly, the Mountain Island Monitor. They sold the papers in late 2008. While looking for something to do, Tucker began the research for his book on “Peahead.”
This is his second book. His first book was “Hornets Never Lie,” which he describes as a fast book on the first NBA season of the Charlotte Hornets in 1988-89. It was published by Down Home Press.
The Mitchell’s have two grown children, two grandchildren, and two more on the way. They reside in the Country Club of South Carolina with their dog Shiner.
“Peahead!” is available through most major book retailers and online at www.peaheadwalker.com