ERNEST LAWRENCE LADD ("Ernie the Big Cat"), 68, passed away Saturday, March 10th, 2007 at 10:00 pm in Franklin, Louisiana following a long battle with cancer. Ernie was born November 28, 1938 in Rayville, Louisiana, though he spent most of his youth in Orange, Texas where he graduated from Emma Wallace High School. His high school coach was Willie Ray Smith Sr., the father of the College Hall of Fame football player Bubba Smith. He attended Grambling State University in Louisiana where he was a football standout under legendary coach Eddie Robinson. The American Football League's San Diego Chargers selected Ernie in the 1961 draft. Ladd played in three AFL championship games, helping the Chargers win the American Football League title in 1963. He spent the 1966 season playing for the Houston Oilers, where he teamed with his uncle Garland Boyette, before moving in 1967 to the Kansas City Chiefs where played in the first Super Bowl. Ernie began wrestling part-time in 1961, and when he began wrestling full-time in the 1970s became one of the sport's biggest world-wide draws. Ernie is the only person to be elected to both the American Football League Hall of Fame and the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame. In addition, he was a member of the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, the Grambling State University Hall of Fame, and an honoree of the Museum of the Gulf Coast. Ernie and his family were long-time residents of Houston where they were members of the Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church. During this period he was active in social and public affairs, co-founding the Professional United Leadership League (P.U.LL) with Oiler teammate John White. This lead to Ernie's involvement in political affairs, where he worked actively in the political campaigns of President George H.W. Bush, President George W. Bush, and former football colleague Jack Kemp. Upon his retirement from sport in 1986, Ernie and his wife Roslyn moved to Franklin, Louisiana where he was active in church and business affairs. Ernie is survived by his wife of more than 45 years, Roslyn; three sons, Ernie and Rodney, of Franklin, La and Reginald, of Houston; a daughter, Erika Peters of Broussard, La.; 16 grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; two sisters, Jamesetta Ford and Louella Jolley, both of Houston; a brother, James Ford, of Woscom, Tex., an uncle Garland D. Boyette, Sr. of Missouri City, TX, and a host of cousins, nieces and nephews. Visitation will take place from 9:00 am to 11: 00, Saturday, March 17, 2007 at the West St. Mary Civic Center, 1498 Highway 318, Sorrell, La. A funeral service with Rev. Clarence Stewart, Sr. celebrant will follow at 11:00 am with interment at the Franklin Cemetery, Franklin, La.
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Published in Houston Chronicle on Mar. 16, 2007