Bob Lawson dies at 78; coach was a prolific masters thrower

Our friend Roger Vergin shares sad news, originally sent by Lane Dowell, about the death of Bob Lawson: Lane wrote over the weekend: “I am sure that many of you are as shocked by the passing of this fine man/athlete as I. His class, support and the grace with which he competed will be greatly missed. He is truly fitting of the title, a role model for each and every one of us. Bob Lawson, one of the top track athletes in Aberdeen High School history, died unexpectedly recently at his home in Ocean Shores. A nationally ranked decathlete who narrowly missed making the United States Olympic team in 1956, the 1954 Aberdeen High grad remained active in sports well into his mid-70s. He was a perennial gold medalist in several events at the Washington State Senior Games.” Another remembrance was posted on the U.S. Sports Academy site.

Bob is at far left in 2008 photo from 45th Paavo Nurmi Marathon in Wisconsin.

Lane’s note continued:

A strong case can be made that Lawson, a charter member of the Aberdeen High Hall of Fame, was the greatest of all Bobcat tracksters.

“I’d rate him No. 1,” former longtime AHS track coach Don Churchill said.

A five-time state high school champion (winning three titles in the high jump and two in the hurdles) under the tutelage of Coach Al Bivens, Lawson was the high-point man at two successive state meets. He led Bobcats to a state runner-up finish in 1954 and established school records in six events.

He was also a football and basketball standout at Aberdeen. A two-way all-conference performer in football, he played in the all-state all-star game and kicked the extra point that gave his team a 7-7 tie.

A starter on Aberdeen’s state runner-up basketball team in 1953 (he earned second team all-state tournament recognition), Lawson was the club’s leading scorer and rebounder as a senior.

Lawson went on to star in track at USC, twice winning Pacific Coast Conference championships in the 120-yard high hurdles and finishing as high as fourth in that event in the 1958 NCAA meet.

He became prominent in the decathlon while still in college. Lawson was second in the AAU nationals in 1955. His fourth- place finish the following year was one spot shy of earning an appearance in the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia.

Lawson was beaten out for the third and final Olympic slot by the Rev. Bob Richards, better known as a pole vaulter (and later a commercial spokesman for a breakfast cereal).

Richards, who had already qualified in the pole vault (in which he won the gold medal), initially said he would withdraw from the decathlon — a decision that would have given Lawson the final Olympic berth— but subsequently changed his mind and competed in both events at Melbourne. The other two American decathletes that year were 1956 gold medalist Milt Campbell and Rafer Johnson, who won the event four years later.

Lawson also finished as high as second in the AAU pentathlon.

After spending many years as a coach and fitness trainer, Lawson moved to Ocean Shores from Oregon more than a decade ago. While he traveled extensively, he was also a regular spectator at Aberdeen High sporting events.

“I grew to like him a lot,” said Churchill. “He’d do anything for anybody.”

Lawson was a member of the first induction class in Aberdeen High School’s Hall of Fame in 1998. He frequently attended Hall of Fame meetings in recent years to support the candidacy of other athletes from his era.

Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.

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April 8, 2013

4 Responses

  1. Nolan Shaheed - April 8, 2013

    Rest in pease Bob.

  2. Mark Phillips - April 8, 2013

    Heard this news last night at our Portland Masters Track Club annual banquet that Bob was to receive an award at. All our members were shocked by the news as Bob was a symbol of strength and a fixture at all Masters event in the Northwest. At the banquet, we broke with our normal schedule and Bob was remembered with stories and then a moment of silence. We will miss our teammate and friend.

  3. Doug Allen - June 21, 2014

    I witnessed the following in 1954: Bob came out to watch the Grays Harbor JC track team in a practice. After a college thrower finished his javelin throws, Bob picked up the spear and in street clothes and stone cold, made a casual toss that made everyone else look silly. He was a high school senior and one hell of an athlete. Best I ever saw in SW Washington.

  4. susan l jamieson - June 27, 2014

    He was my fathers 1st cousin. He was lovley. Miss him so much. My father was his closest everything. They were supposed to finish theyr’e bucket list together that week. My dad said, bobs not answering his phone, for over 5 days. We were devistated. Love to all who loved this wonderful man. Susan Jamieson.He will NEVER be forgotten. You’re with milton now. Gods speed.

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