James Arthur “Kamala” Harris was a professional wrestler best known for his fictional Ugandan gigantic persona, Kamala. Harris was born in Senatobia, Mississippi, on May 28, 1950, to Jessie Harris and Betsy Mosely. He also had four sisters. Harris was raised in Coldwater, Mississippi, where his family had a furniture company. His father was slain following a dice game when he was four years old. As a child, he worked as a sharecropper to help support his family. Harris dropped out of high school in the ninth grade and went to work as a thief.
On the recommendation of authorities, Harris left Mississippi in 1967 and relocated to Florida, where he worked as a truck driver and fruit picker. He then relocated to Benton Harbor, Michigan, where he met Bobo Brazil, a professional wrestler who became his trainer. Harris made his professional wrestling debut as “Sugar Bear” Harris in 1978. In 1979, he won his first professional wrestling championship with wrestler Oki Shikina in the National Wrestling Association (NWA) Tri-State Tag Team competition.
In 1980, he joined Southeastern Championship Wrestling as “Bad News” Harris and won the championship the following year. Harris joined the Continental Wrestling Association (CWA) in 1982 after being approached by promoter Jerry O’Neal “The King” Lawler.
Lawler and another wrestling promoter, Jerry Winston Jarret, constructed a new wrestling identity for Harris while he was wrestling for CWA. This character, Kamala, was an archetypal Ugandan headhunter with face and body painting who was purported to be former Ugandan President Idi Amin’s bodyguard. Harris then joined Mid-South Wrestling, which was controlled by promoter William Harris, and stayed with the company until 1986.
During his career, Harris competed for World Class Championship Wrestling, the World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment, WWE), and World Championship Wrestling until retiring in 2010 at the age of 60.
Despite his long and successful wrestling career, Harris struggled with a number of personal and health challenges. Due to problems from high blood pressure and diabetes, he had his left leg amputated below the knee in 2011. His right leg was amputated below the knee a year later. As a result of his amputations, a charity fund was established to assist him with his financial requirements.
Harris was part of a class action lawsuit filed against World Wrestling Entertainment in 2016 alleging that wrestlers suffered traumatic brain injuries while working for WWE. Unfortunately for Harris and other wrestlers, Judge Vanessa Lynne Bryant dismissed the claim in 2018.
Harris was married twice, the first time to Clara Freeman. That marriage was annulled. He later married Emmer Jean Bradley, with whom he was wedded until his death. In addition, he had six children, five daughters and one son.
Harris underwent life-saving emergency surgery in 2017 to remove fluid from around his heart and lungs. His health issues persisted. On August 5, 2020, he was admitted to the hospital after testing positive for COVID-19 during the pandemic in Mississippi. Harris died four days later, on August 9, from diabetes and COVID-19 complications in Oxford, Mississippi. He was 70.