Booker Edgerson and Cookie GIlchrist played together for the Buffalo Bills from 1962 until 1964. In those three seasons, the Bills went from mediocrity to champions of the AFL. Edgerson is now the President of the Buffalo Bills Alumni Association, and was placed onto the Buffalo Bills Wall of Fame last year. I spoke with him at the Bills uniform unveiling on June 24 about Cookie's legacy and status with the Wall of Fame.
"(There have been) lots of great running backs, but there was only one Cookie Gilchrist," began Edgerson. "I put him in the top five. I could almost put him at one or two, and that's between him and Jim Brown, especially with big backs. There were others like Gale Sayers in the smaller backs. Cookie and Jim Brown I put in the same category at one or two."
When asked more specifically about the Wall of Fame, Edgerson cited a Buffalo News account from 1971 where it was announced that Cookie was the first member of the Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame. [Here's Buffalo Rumblings' account of the article from the time of Gilchrist's funeral.]
"Absolutely, he belongs on the Wall of Fame," asserted Edgerson. "In fact, in 1971 he was inducted to the Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame. They said when the stadium was built they would put him in the Hall of Fame. It never happened. The fact is that it was in the newspaper, pictures had been taken, and with that he should be put up on that wall. There should not be lobbying for it, because he's already there."
Through the years, it's been reported that Cookie refused to be included on the wall, but Edgerson claims that is only half-true. It was only after he felt disrespected by the organization that he took that stance.
"The other side of the coin is that he basically said that he didn't want to be on the Wall. That was after the fact. If they had done what they said they were going to do in the beginning, there would have never been a problem at that point. When he said he wasn't going to be up there, it was after he felt that the media was using him, but the Denver Broncos, the Buffalo Bills, the Miami Dolphins and the press in general were using him to get stories that he wasn't getting paid for. But they were."
As President of the Alumni Association, Edgerson has quite a bit of pull with the organization, and is using it to help his late former teammate.
"Our Alumni group, of which I'm President, wrote a letter to Mr. Wilson asking him to put Cookie on the Wall," explains Edgerson. "We know that there were some problems between Ralph and Cookie, but at this particular time we felt like they need to bury all that stuff and put Cookie on the Wall. Hopefully Ralph will take that into consideration and put Cookie on the Wall."