The Gene Tapia Story is not only about one of the southeast's best racers, but it is a hero's journey.
Tapia was destined for adventure at an early age.
He was working as a civilian on Dutch Harbor, Alaska when the Japanese attacked. Shot in the butt, he begged to remain on the island, and helped American Forces recover the first Japanese Zero Airplane of the war.
Forced to return to the States, the young man learned of the theft of his one-hour-old son from a Memphis Tennessee Hospital by the famed baby-merchant, Georgia Tann. Attempting to locate his son would be a consuming task for the next forty years.
Gene enlisted in the Marines and became a Marine Raider with the Third Marine Division.
His first battles were on Guadalcanal.
He hit the beach on Guam the very first day.
He spent thirty five days on "Bloody" Iwo Jima.
After returning to the States after the War, Gene was a basket case. His legs and feet were filled with coral cuts and shrapnel, and full of jungle rot. He dived under a table when a car backfired, and experienced the effects of Dengue Fever once or twice a year for the remainder of his life.
His salvation came in automobile racing. He went with a friend to the seven-tenths of a mile Lakeview Speedway in Mobile in early 1947, and from then on, racing was his calling.
He raced with NASCAR's best, but gave it up because he wanted to race more than once a week, and he had a family to take care of. His only NASCAR title was the Florida State Championship, as well as the Mississippi State Championship in 1953.
Gene was inducted into the Alabama Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1999.
He passed away in 2005.
Gene was my hero. His actions both on the battlefield and racetrack were beyond the average person's capability.