The world of professional wrestling lost one of its most beloved legends on Thursday.
Harley Leland Race passed away due to complications from lung cancer, World Wrestling Entertainment announced.
“WWE extends its condolences to Race’s family, friends and fans,” the promotion said in a press release.
Race was born the son of sharecroppers on April 11, 1943, in Quitman, Mo., to George and Mary Race.
He battled polio as a child. When he overcame that, he turned his attention to the squared circle.
His career as an active wrestler career spanned four decades, beginning in 1960, and included tenures in many major promotions.
Race performed with the American Wrestling Association in the 1960s, the National Wrestling alliance through the 1970s, the WWE in the late 1980s and World Championship Wrestling in the 1990s.
In 1995, a car accident ended his career as an in-ring performer. Still, he made sporadic appearances over the following two decades, mostly collecting hall of fame inductions.
He’s one of six men enshrined in the WWE, NWA, Professional Wrestling and Wrestler Observer Newsletter halls of fame.
Aside from holding countless heavyweight titles, Race won the WWE’s King of the Ring tournament in 1986. His character was the first to don a crown and robe after winning.
“Harley Race was literally the King of his profession for 25 years. Long live the King,” said WWE Chairman Vince McMahon.
Race had two children across four marriages. His son, Jason, wrestled on the amateur level but never went into pro wrestling. He also had a daughter, Candice Marie.
His children gave him five grandchildren.