Monday, December 26, 2016

Lambright, Part X: Away from football, a friend, and a logo

      (Part X)
       Maxie Lambright left more than a football legacy at Louisiana Tech University. He left a logo.
       That's right -- a logo. Some people will remember this; most probably don't know.
       Coach Lambright created, designed, the ubiquitous Tech logo still in use today: The state of Louisiana, with the large "T" stretched across the top.
       You see it on brochures, web sites, billboards, hats, clothing, whatever ... it is everywhere.
       "He came out of his office one day [early in 1968] and held out this drawing [on a napkin]," remembered Mary Richardson, who became the football coaches' secretary a few months after Lambright's arrival at Tech. "I asked him what it was.
       "He told me he thought it would be good to put on the football helmets the next season."
       The powers-that-be at Tech approved of it. The head of the university's art department, Raymond Nichols, applied the colors and finishing touches. Done.
       For the first time, in the 1968 season -- a sensational season that established Lambright's Tech program as a power -- the Bulldogs wore red helmets with the "T/state" logo.
       It's been that way ever since, until Tech last season introduced white helmets with the logo.
       It was the first time since the early 1960s, through Coach Joe Aillet's final season in 1966, the Tech helmet was white with a single red stripe down the middle.
       When Lambright came in, he switched to red helmets (no logo, no stripes) for the 1967 season. Plus, the Bulldogs that year often wore plain red jerseys (no stripes) -- not a good look. The next year they went back to the traditional jerseys -- white, red or blue -- with the bold three stripes on the shoulders. Haven't changed that look since.
       Lambright in the office, no football involved, was low-key and easy to be around. And he had his set of friends, some dating to his Southern Mississippi days.
       Mary Richardson and Flo Miskelley, who was Coach Aillet's secretary/administrative assistant from August 1965 until he retired in the spring of 1970 and then took over other duties, were Lambright fans.
       "He was absolutely the best boss in the world," said Mary Richardson. "He was happy-go-lucky. Strict on the [assistant] coaches, but with me and Flo, he was absolutely wonderful."  
       And he was a good sport. There was a photo -- used by sports information director Keith Prince in the football media guides several times over the years -- with Mary and Flo on either side of Maxie in front of a chalkboard with a play design (Xs and Os) and the coach with his palms turned up and a sheepish expression -- an "I don't know" pose.
       Mary said Lambright "ran a tight ship [with the coaches]," but at times they would play tricks on him.
       "He was good at what he did, and he was the most personable and kind person."
       Flo Miskelley said Aillet "was totally different" from Lambright. "There was never anybody like Coach Aillet," she said. "He was the perfect gentleman, so intelligent. Always super nice to me."
       It was no different with Lambright. She began working closely with him when he became the athletic director following Aillet's retirement at the end of the 1969-70 school year.
       "He was wonderful," she said of Lambright. "Very kind, very intelligent."
       And he came to trust her to continue to handle the game-tickets operation -- just as she had done for Aillet. And she did until she retired after 40 years in the athletic department; all by memory and on paper; she did not use computers.
       She also became Lambright's de facto athletic director.
       "He leaned pretty heavily on me, like with the budget," she explained. "He was so preoccupied with football for so many months, so [the entire athletic department budget] was a major adjustment for him, pretty difficult.
       "He wanted to take care of football, of course, but he had to be in charge of all the other sports, too -- and women's athletics was just beginning. But he was very careful to spread the money around."
       Lambright maintained his friendships from his years in Southern Mississippi. One man was already on the Tech campus when Maxie arrived in 1967.
       Rev. William Stokes, for years director of the Wesley Foundation at Tech, was a high school friend in McComb, Miss., in the early 1940s.
       "He was a fine person; he was the best dancer," remembered Rev. Stokes. "He was in our crowd in high school."
       A cousin visiting from Maryland, and also originally from McComb, asked Rev. Stokes if he saw much of Coach Lambright at Tech.
        "No, he was at one end of the campus and I was at the other end," he said, laughing.
        Rev. Stokes remains in Ruston and -- reportedly -- is past 90. "Let's not talk about age," he said, when asked. Kidded about it, he replied -- just to be sure -- "let's not talk about age."
        Another Lambright friend he saw each year when Southern Miss and Tech played in football and, when and if, USM came to Tech for basketball was longtime USM sports information director Ace Cleveland.
        Cleveland's son, Rick, became one of Mississippi's best sports writers/columnists, and he recalled that "Maxie and my dad were great friends. I knew him well. He introduced me to martinis when I was 17 years old.
        "I had the worst hangover in history for the next day's Southern Miss-La. Tech [football] game, which USM won, ruining a perfect [Tech] season [Terry] Bradshaw's senior year (1969).
        "He was a beauty. Highly intelligent. ... He ought to be in the [College Football] Hall of Fame. Can't believe he isn't."
         (Next: Maxie and the Southern Miss ties)

         From Tech longtime Tech team photographer Tom ("Temo") Morris: Here is a near complete series of Coach Lambright's logo design used through the years by the Bulldogs, starting with the original ...
No automatic alt text available.

Willie Roaf in 1992
Coach Derek Dooley's blue-trimmed T 2007
2013 after the University eliminated the White-T
Coach Holtz's introduction of the white helmet in 2015.
Patriotic logo introduced at North Texas in 2014 and used it since at appropriate games.
At Friday's Armed Forces Bowl.

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