Sports Legends: Remembering The Boys From Decatur
Frank Broyles, Larry Morris, Moose Miller: Old Decatur High School turned out more than its share of football immortals, but none was greater than Auburn Cleatus Lambeth, who in one season broke every passing record in the school’s history.
Lambeth never considered himself a football player. He liked baseball and basketball, and made all-state in both sports and captained both teams. In baseball, he once led the North Georgia Inter-scholastic Conference with a .371 batting average.
Not once did he think of himself as a football player, not until his senior season when the late head football coach, Lew Woodruff, urged him to come out for the team. Coach Woodruff saw him play basketball, was impressed with the way he handled the ball and had visions of his passing accurately to his receivers.
Little did Woodruff know what a mark Lambeth would make in just one season. He became known as “the man with the golden arm” for his passing.
Lambeth, now 80 years old, was born and grew up in Decatur, one of 10 children – seven boys and three girls. His siblings were not athletes. He graduated from high school at the age of 16 – a scholar as well as a standout on the football field.
While he was at Decatur High, he was aggressively sought by Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia. Auburn and the University of Alabama came calling with scholarship offers, but he chose Davidson College in Davidson, N.C. He was impressed with Davidson, he says, “where you excelled in the classroom or you packed your bags.”
At Davidson he maintained a straight “A” scholastic record and broke more records on the field.
In one game, against Southern Conference foe Richmond, he threw five touchdown passes, leading his team to a 39-0 victory, good enough to become Associated Press National Back of the Week. This was a Davidson touchdown passing record, as was his 200-plus season completion record.
Smith Barrier, then sports editor of The Char-lotte News, wrote, in part, of a Davidson-Citadel game, “Auburn Lambeth, the ace passer in the Southern Conference, completed 15 of 25 passes for 295 yards, despite terrible pro-tection.”
Said Jim Murphy, Davidson athletic director, “In 25 years, I never saw anyone in Lambeth’s class.”
He was immensely popular with the student body – president of his senior class, vice-president of the student body and editor of the school newspaper.
On a strong recommendation from sportswriter Furman Bisher, he was signed by the Hamilton Tigercats of the Canadian Football League. He played one season for the Tigercats before going to Korea with the U.S. Army, where he earned a Bronze Star for valor.
When he came home from Korea, getting started in business trumped professional football. He was as successful in the life insurance business as he was in football, first as an agent with Pyramid Life and then as a million-dollar producer with Prud-ential. He became a professor of life insurance at Purdue University.
He attracted the attention of the Lincoln Financial Group, which hired him to build an agency in Jackson, Miss. He recruited, trained and supervised agents at such a pace his agency became one of the leading ones in the company. At the same time, he was producing sales himself and turned a scratch agency into one of the most successful in the company.
For his contributions to Davidson College since his graduation and his relentless involvement in Jackson community affairs, he was given a Davidson alumnus “Man of The Year” Award.
What advice does he have for a prep all-star picking a college?
“Pick the school with strong academics. So few of today’s prep heroes are going to get a chance to play professionally. The chances of making it in the pros are slim.”
And what does Lambeth want to be remembered for?
“Putting other people first, giving them love and affection, and my faith in God.”