Special Report: The time Dave Brown got punched in the face

(WMC-TV) – It's a story as legendary as the man himself – the time Action News 5 Meteorologist Dave Brown got punched in the face.

Besides questions about the weather, Brown says more people ask him about that incident than any other question. Now, after 36 years, he is ready to set the record straight.

The story is a tall tale as famous as Brown's forecasts, and people remember it quite differently. Many Mid-Southerners swear they were watching television when the famous punch happened.

"A man was in a convertible and it rained on him, and he came in and hit him," Patricia Tucker recalled.

"The story I remember is when somebody threw a Coke in his face," Memphian Joy Frederick said.

Famous Memphians remember versions of the story as well.

"Dave immediately went on the defensive. He leaped in the air with a flying drop kick," professional wrestler and WWE commentary Jerry Lawler said.

"I mean, he had two black eyes, his nose was swollen…that's the day that Dave's hair turned white," he laughed.

"I've always been tempted to ask about it, but he's a little taller than me, and I was afraid he'd cold-cock me, and I would definitely remember that version," Memphis Mayor A C Wharton laughed.

Until recently, even Brown's close colleagues didn't know the whole story.

"I'm as interested as everybody else is as to what happened that day, because I honestly don't know the answer," Action News 5's Joe Birch said.

Brown says the story has followed him for nearly 36 years.

"I've probably heard 300 to 500 versions of what happened, and none of them are true," he said.

It all started in 1975, when a stranger made his way into the WHBQ-TV building, where Brown was working at the time.

"The reception person frantically called the newsroom and said there's a guy in the building, and he seems to be headed that way," Brown said.

Quickly several employees moved went into a hallway to prevent the person from entering the newsroom. They didn't know if whether he was armed, so they wanted to quickly remove him from the building.

"He walks all the way into the newsroom, and frankly, we kind of back-pedaled, because he was a large guy, and again, keep in mind we didn't know if he was armed."

As the man approached Brown, he took a swing, but he did not hit the famous forecaster in the face.

"As he swung kind of a hay maker, he caught me with his forearm, and I went down and went under a table," Brown said. "Again, not knowing if he was armed and not knowing what he wanted. But he didn't hurt me. I was not injured – nothing like that.

Though many people think they saw the incident on television, that was not the case.

"It was on the second floor of the building. There was not even a camera on the second floor in those days, and it was not on the air," Brown said. "It had nothing to do with me, it had nothing to do with wrestling, and as far as we know, it didn't have anything to do with the news."

Brown said they later learned the man was mentally disturbed, and had walked away from a treatment center in Waukegan, Illinois.

"He had family in Memphis," Brown said. "He came here, and finally we were able to shoo him out of the building."

What many people don't know is the same man returned a month late. Staff members were able to trap him inside the lobby until police arrived.

"I guess ultimately it was good," Brown said. "It helped build a sort of publicity type thing. It was not good at the time though. It was very scary."

Over the years, the story has blossomed with embellishments.

"It became an urban legend very, very quickly," he said.

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