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

Dewey Morgan 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 Lawson’s longtime friend and former Loudon Principal David Clinton. “He was Loudon High.  I don’t 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, hadn’t felt well Monday and his brother had made him some soup.  The next day Lawson didn’t 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. “It’s 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 didn’t have time to make the field after his surgery. “I fully believe that if the game had been at home, he’d have been there and found a way to get into the press box,” Brakebill said.  As it was, Lawson couldn’t make the game so he did the next best thing – he sat at home, kept the stats and called the radio station after the game to keep up his tradition of relaying the game’s 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.  “He’s 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 Lawson’s 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 wouldn’t have it worked out.  As he was saying it on the radio he’d average it in his head.”

Mike Thompson chimed in, “His total recall is unparalleled.” Lawson’s 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 Brakebill’s youth group in the 1980s.  Brakebill recalled one in particular when his group went with Lawson to the Lost Sea and they encountered Fatman’s Squeeze.  “Bruce got stuck and started saying, ‘I can’t get in, I can’t get any farther,’” Brakebill recalled.  That’s when Brakebill’s 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 wasn’t just the Loudon sports community that will remember Lawson, who made countless scouting trips for all of the sports teams, fondly. “There’s not a coach or referee in East Tennessee that didn’t 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 doesn’t know all the names.  When he didn’t, “I’d just ask Bruce and he’d 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 Lawson’s name has become.  “I bet there are a lot of people who don’t 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 wasn’t a coach that came through here that he didn’t keep in touch with,” Harig said. Lawson’s impact also stretched beyond the confines of the high school itself.  “I’ve known Bruce all of his life,” said Loudon Mayor Bernie “Inky” Swiney. “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed him, appreciated him and spent a lot of time with him when we were doing football games.” “He’s the eternal Redskin fan.  As a community, we’ll miss him,” Swiney added.

Longtime Loudon resident and friend, Ronnie McNabb, said he remembers Lawson fondly. “I just think he’s a good-hearted person,” McNabb said. “It’ll be a huge loss in the Loudon neighborhood.” Lawson may never have coached a day in his life, but that didn’t stop those around him from thinking of him in those terms.  “For me . . . he was part of the team.  He’d go everywhere we went,” Bill Thompson said. Foster agreed saying Lawson was the next best thing to a coach. Lawson’s 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, “It’s going to be hard to realize what an LHS sporting event will be like without him.  He’s always been there.”

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

“It’s going to be hard to realize he’s not there.  I don’t think we’ll ever say goodbye,” Clinton said.

That statement may ring true for the entire city of Loudon.

Loudon's No. 1 fan passes

Loudon High School athletics has lost its staunchest supporter and most ardent fan.

Bruce Carlton Lawson died Tuesday at his home. He was 55.

"He was the No. 1 Redskin," said Bill Thompson, Loudon's athletic director and baseball coach. "He's meant so much to all of our sports throughout the years."

A graveside service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Loudon County Memorial Gardens. The family will greet friends following the service from 1 to 2 p.m. in the Loudon High School gymnasium.

Loudon boys' basketball coach Colt Narramore said "Bruce is Loudon."

"You can't talk about Loudon athletics in the last 40 years without talking about Bruce," Narramore said. "He is the most loyal and passionate Loudon fan ever. "

Mr. Lawson graduated from Loudon in 1972 and was voted as having "Best School Spirit" by his classmates. Lawson was presented that same year with a trophy from school administrators for being Loudon's "Most Loyal Fan."

Mr. Lawson spent the rest of his life living up to those superlatives.

Mr. Lawson served as a scorekeeper and ace statistician. He even scouted upcoming opponents. He was a walking encyclopedia of Loudon sports knowledge.

Mr. Lawson witnessed more than 500 Loudon football games, according to football coach Jeff Harig.

"If you asked him what was the score of the 1966 Kingston-Loudon game, he'd come up with it," Harig said. "His memory for those games was unmatched."

Harig said Loudon students and faculty are "just shocked" at the death of a man who "was just so loyal and so dedicated to all the sports programs for so many years."

Thompson said most sports teams will honor Mr. Lawson in some fashion. The baseball team is no exception.

"It's kind of ironic," said Thompson, who went to high school with Mr. Lawson. "This year I ordered a sign (to be displayed at the baseball field). Didn't know which player I was going to use it for. Now, it's going to say, 'Bruce, you'll always be with us.' "