SMITH COLUMN: Ray Lamb

Published 10:30 am Friday, May 20, 2022

COMMERCE – This is a town divided by the Norfolk Southern Railroad but is on the same page when it comes to its football team whose former players and alumni gathered with the greatest of feeling last week to honor its long-time former football coach, Ray Lamb.

Lamb was recruited in 1967 to this town, which historically was one of the many Georgia communities whose survival was linked to a textile mill.  When Commerce lost its mill, it didn’t lose its spirit.  It found a way to survive.  Much of the embodiment of its attitude could be found in the way it rallied around the Tiger football team.

Lately, S. K. Battery America has invested generously into Commerce with plans to hire 2,000 employees by 2025. That has made this town of 7,387 smile with affection for the economic shot-in-the-arm that is taking place.

The economic health of a community is vital anywhere, but so is its emotional health.

To appreciate traditions, long standing social mores and the basic tenets of sportsmanship and fair play will never lose its value at the local high school where Lamb established a winning tradition, after a struggling start, but culminated in winning the Class AA state championship in 1981.

Ray spent 35 years coaching before becoming head of high school relations for the University of Georgia football program.  By the time that job ran its course, Bobby was coaching at Furman, Hal was entrenched in Calhoun. Hal’s offensive coordinator was Mike Davis, who is married to Lynn.

The most recent gathering in honor of the Lambs was to celebrate a fund raising initiative to create a corpus which will fund a couple of annual scholarships named for Ray for deserving kids from Commerce.

In the beginning, a former player, Brad Brown, who became the trail boss of the effort was hoping that the effort would bring $30,000 to the coffers.

He organized a blue-ribbon committee, which applied uncommon energy and unlimited passion to the effort. Money started accumulating rapidly. 

Some wrote checks, many bought tables and many underwrote costs of putting on the banquet.   That allowed for a favorable bottom line. It was the ultimate pitch-in campaign. By the time the organizing committee gathered to host the banquet they were doing the math and realized that their collective efforts with the eager support of the community that more than $86,000 was in the bank with more on the way.