It is with great sadness that the United States Sports Academy family learned of the passing of one of the institution’s original members of its National Faculty, renowned track and field coach Bob Lawson.
Lawson, who worked with Academy President and CEO Dr. Thomas P. Rosandich for decades, was a world-class decathlete whose passion for track and field led him to a post competitive coaching career that took him around the world, including to Academy projects in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
Lawson died unexpectedly recently at his home in Ocean Shores, Wash.
“I believe Bob Lawson was the most knowledgeable track and field coach ever produced in the United States,” said Dr. Rosandich, who is in the National Track and Field Hall of Fame. “Until the day he died, Bob never stopped helping people. I considered him family.”
Lawson, who went on to coach track and field at Iowa State University and the University of Wisconsin Parkside among other places, was a nationally ranked decathlete who narrowly missed making the United States Olympic team for the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games.
Lawson starred in track at the University of Southern Cal, twice winning Pacific Coast Conference championships in the 120-yard high hurdles and finished 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 Games. Lawson was narrowly beaten out for the third and final Olympic slot by the Rev. Bob Richards, who was better known as a pole vaulter.
In high school, Lawson was a 1954 graduate of Aberdeen High School in Washington, where he is considered the greatest track star in its history. He was a five-time state high school champion, winning three titles in the high jump and two in the hurdles. Lawson was also a football and basketball standout at Aberdeen. Lawson was a member of the first induction class in Aberdeen High School’s Hall of Fame in 1998.
Lawson never stopped competing, becoming a perennial gold medalist well into his mid-70s in Senior Game events.