Claude Patterson (born 1941) is an American retired professional wrestler, better known by his ring name, Thunderbolt Patterson. Patterson is best known for his efforts at starting a labor union for professional wrestlers. He began his career in 1965 and wrestled primarily in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.
Professional wrestling career
Training and early career
Patterson had grown up in Iowa and worked for John Deere in Waterloo, Iowa when he broke into professional wrestling in the Kansas City area. Promoter Gus Karras put Patterson in matches against Don Soto in 1964. In 1965, Patterson moved to Texas and worked with promoter Dory Funk Sr.. The following year, he traveled to California, where he held the WWA Tag Team Championship with Alberto Torres. He also continued to work in Texas, where he worked as a villainous character in the racist South.
In 1969, he worked for Big Time Wrestling in Michigan and Ohio.
Patterson agreed to work for the All-South Wrestling Alliance, an outlaw promotion (that is, one outside of the NWA) run by Ann Gunkel, the widow of his old friend and Georgia promoter Ray Gunkel, in the 1970s. He also spoke out against poor working conditions for wrestlers and sued for racial discrimination, and as a result, he was blacklisted from wrestling. He had been complaining about racism from promoters for many years (he would later recall that only Dory Funk Sr. had backed him) and wanted to start a wrestlers' union, a dream he shared with Jim Wilson a former NFL player and wrestler, himself blacklisted. It would be years, with Patterson working at the Los Angeles Times in the interim, before he would get another shot, when Dusty Rhodes took ill in Florida.
Patterson joined Ole Anderson as a tag team partner in the early 1980s and they briefly held the NWA National Tag Team Championship. Ole's "relative", a young Arn Anderson, came to the sport, and Ole, saying he was "tired of carrying guys like Patterson and Dusty Rhodes" broke up with Patterson, and joined Arn in what would be the foundation for the Four Horsemen which would include NWA Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair and Tully Blanchard.
In 1988, he was a labor organizer for Service Employees International Union in Atlanta.
After retiring from professional wrestling, he began running a Christian camp for children. Patterson is also an ordained minister.
Championships and accomplishments
- WWA World Tag Team Championship (1 time) - with Alberto Torres