North State Journal’s 100 in 100 series will showcase the best athlete from each of North Carolina’s 100 counties. From Alamance to Yancey, each county will feature one athlete who stands above the rest. Some will be obvious choices, others controversial, but all of our choices are worthy of being recognized for their accomplishments — from the diamond and gridiron to racing ovals and the squared circle. You can see all the profiles as they’re unveiled here.
The Wright Brothers weren’t the only ones whose careers took flight in Kill Devil Hills. Anderson also got his start in the small Outer Banks community. Only instead of taking off from the sandy dunes of the beach, he made a name for himself as a mud bogger in a beat-up 1951 Ford panel truck he nicknamed “Grave Digger” in response to a rival’s taunt.
“He was dogging me about my junk truck,” Anderson said. “Finally, I’d had enough and told him, ‘I’ll take this junk and dig your grave with it!’ I took a can of spray paint and put ‘Grave Digger’ on the door. And then I buried his butt in a mud hole right there in front of everybody.”
From that not-so-humble beginning, a legend was born.
The transition from local hotshot to nationally recognized sensation began one night in 1983 when a monster truck didn’t show up as scheduled to a local event. Offering his assistance so that the show could go on, Anderson offered up his truck — which already had oversized tractor tires on it — to crush some cars.
Anderson eventually transitioned Grave Digger into a monster truck, complete with its trademark black paint scheme, and began competing in TNT Motorsports events. He scored his first major victory by beating Bigfoot in a nationally televised race in St. Paul, Minnesota. Anderson has updated Grave Digger numerous times over the years, becoming a fan favorite while winning five series championships along the way.
The success came with a price, however. Anderson suffered multiple injuries because of crashes, many caused by his aggressive driving style. He was forced to miss the World Finals in 2017 after he was hospitalized attempting a backflip and retired from the sport later that year.