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Bruce Carlton Lawson - Redskins #1 Fan

 

'Spirit of LHS' passes away: Bruce Lawson's absence felt in Loudon community

 

Author: Dewey Morgan - Loudon News Herald

There will be something missing this fall when the Loudon football team takes the field.  The man dubbed the "Spirit of Loudon High School," Bruce Lawson, died Tuesday after reportedly not feeling particularly well the past week.

"Bruce not being there is kind of like the scoreboard not being there," said Lawsonís longtime friend and former Loudon Principal David Clinton.

"He was Loudon High.  I donít know what more you could say," Loudon Head Football Coach Jeff Harig said of the loss.

"He was the very spirit of Loudon High School," John Napier, Loudon instructor, historian and longtime friend of Lawson, said.

According to Loudon High School Principal Cheri Parrish, Lawson, 55, hadnít felt well Monday and his brother had made him some soup.  The next day Lawson didnít show up for a scheduled doctor appointment. His brother was alerted and Lawson was found lying on the floor with the soup still on the table.

"Itís a huge loss for Loudon," Parrish said.

Lawson truly did live and breathe Loudon High School sports his entire life.  He went to high school there and lived in the community except for just more than two years of his life, during which he attended Hiwassee College and spent two weeks in the military.  Even when he was gone from the town he still found a way back to take in the athletic events.  Lawson had a streak of 417 consecutive Loudon football games attended that was eventually snapped in 2000 when he had surgery on his leg the day of a road trip to South Greene, Loudon historian and teacher Bill Brakebil said.  Lawson didnít have time to make the field after his surgery.

"I fully believe that if the game had been at home, heíd have been there and found a way to get into the press box," Brakebill said.  As it was, Lawson couldnít make the game so he did the next best thing Ė he sat at home, kept the stats and called the radio station after the game to keep up his tradition of relaying the gameís statistics over the air.  When his stats were compared to the official ones taken, he was one yard off.

And even though the consecutive game streak was snapped, Lawson still made it to his final 90 Loudon football games and never missed a game played in the history of Dukes Field.  "Heís the most knowledgeable wealth of information of Loudon athletics you could ever come across," Mike Thompson, Loudon football and baseball play-by-play announcer recalled.

Clinton referred to him as a "stat library" and countless Loudon natives who know him recounted his ability to process and retain statistics and Loudon sports trivia.  "You could always count on Bruce keeping the scorebook, the clock, or both.  He took pride in the fact that he could keep the scorebook and the clock in basketball at the same time," Loudon Athletic Director and Head Baseball Coach Bill Thompson said.

Discussing Lawsonís ability to figure up stats in his head while reporting them on the radio, Loudon Head Girls Basketball Coach and Vice Principal Bryant Collins said, "He wouldnít have it worked out.  As he was saying it on the radio heíd average it in his head."

Mike Thompson chimed in, "His total recall is unparalleled."

Lawsonís ability to recall stats from what seemed the most obscure of situations led some to attempt to playfully trip him up.  Prior to Loudon home football games, booklet are produced by Brakebill that contain information of the upcoming Redskin football game and placed in the press box.  "Sometimes, Mr. Brakebill would put some errors in there intentionally," Collins laughed.  "I made one up specifically for him (with errors)," Brakebill recalled.  "The reason I did that was if I made a mistake in there, he caught it.  If I had one mistake, he found it as soon as he opened the book."

Brakebill said he had known Lawson for roughly 40 years, but got to really know him during youth trips Lawson would go on with Brakebillís church youth group in the 1980s.  Brakebill recalled one in particular when his group went with Lawson to the Lost Sea and they encountered Fatmanís Squeeze.  "Bruce got stuck and started saying, ĎI canít get in, I canít get any farther,í" Brakebill recalled.  Thatís when Brakebillís brother, Merritt, told Lawson, "Come on Bruce, do it for the Redskins."  With a chuckle, Brakebill then recalled, "When (Merritt) said do it for the Redskins, Bruce started struggling and he got through."

"His life was Loudon sports.  There will never be a bigger fan than Bruce," Bill Thompson said.  But it wasnít just the Loudon sports community that will remember Lawson, who made countless scouting trips for all of the sports teams, fondly.

"Thereís not a coach or referee in East Tennessee that didnít know him," Loudon Head Boys Basketball Coach Colt Narramore said. 

"You mention Loudon and his name comes up," Collins added.

Brakebill also recalled a couple of moments when he was a bit surprised to find the name Bruce Lawson.  "I was in Australia and ran into somebody that knew him.  I was in Puerto Rico once and ran into somebody that knew him," Brakebill said with a bit of amazement in his voice.

Collins added that he generally likes to call referees by name during games.  He admitted, however, that he doesnít know all the names.  When he didnít, "Iíd just ask Bruce and heíd know them or their dad," Collins said.

"There are very few people in the world who you could just use their first name.  They all know who he is just by his first name," longtime Loudon teacher Jerry Foster, who currently has a consecutive game stretch of his own sitting above 500, said of how widespread Lawsonís name has become.  "I bet there are a lot of people who donít even know his last name."

"Bruce was an institution, not only for Loudon, but around the district and region, everyone knew him," Clinton said.

Lawson was also fiercely loyal to the coaches and administrators who have passed through Loudon in his years.  "There wasnít a coach that came through here that he didnít keep in touch with," Harig said.

Lawsonís impact also stretched beyond the confines of the high school itself.  "Iíve known Bruce all of his life," said Loudon Mayor Bernie "Inky" Swiney. "Iíve thoroughly enjoyed him, appreciated him and spent a lot of time with him when we were doing football games."

"Heís the eternal Redskin fan.  As a community, weíll miss him," Swiney added.

Longtime Loudon resident and friend, Ronnie McNabb, said he remembers Lawson fondly. "I just think heís a good-hearted person," McNabb said. "Itíll be a huge loss in the Loudon neighborhood."

Lawson may never have coached a day in his life, but that didnít stop those around him from thinking of him in those terms.  "For me . . . he was part of the team.  Heíd go everywhere we went," Bill Thompson said.

Foster agreed saying Lawson was the next best thing to a coach.

Lawsonís impact also stretched to the families of those he knew. It was echoed by those who remember Lawson fondly that he was a good man who was always helpful and will be missed.

"He always asked about my family.  He was a caring person," Foster said. 

With a look of sober reality, Napier said, "Itís going to be hard to realize what an LHS sporting event will be like without him.  Heís always been there."

According to Parrish there are plans to rename the Redskin Spirit Award after Lawson.

"Itís going to be hard to realize heís not there.  I donít think weíll ever say goodbye," Clinton said.

That statement may ring true for the entire city of Loudon

 

 

 

 

 

 



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