Clyde Robert Coleman

February 6, 2008

 

Dear Cindy,

 

If I were writing this on an old-fashioned typewriter, I am certain that the pages would be tear-stained. So, I want to begin by sending my very best wishes to you and your extended families on the death of Bobby.

 

You will recall that, when you told me that you would like to have some of my stories to share with your family, I told you that it might be a few days before I could produce them. However, your call was followed by a phone request from the church for some comments from me. In view of this, I decided to expedite my delivery. I hope that you will tell your family that I am usually much more meticulous in my editing than this hurried version will suggest.

 

You and others have my unqualified permission to use any part of the following tribute to Bobby that might honor him or please or console his family. I pray especially that the younger members will enjoy learning some things that they may not previously have heard.

 

Sincerely,

 

 Lee H. Smith

 

 

A Tribute to Bobby Coleman,

My Highly Valued and Virtually Life-long Friend
by Lee Smith

 

My hope is that the members of Dr. Robert Coleman’s family whom I have not met will understand my referring repeatedly to him as Bobby. I knew him long and well by that name.

 

If I were asked to select a single word that described his life, it would be “wholesome”. Bobby was a wholesome young boy and teenager and Dr. Robert Coleman was a wholesome man. My deepest thanks go to God for the privilege of knowing and enjoying both.

 

Our first encounter came in second grade at Winnetka Elementary School in Dallas. It was there that I should have learned my lesson about competing with him. It turned out that he was the only person in the first three grades who could kick the soccer ball higher and farther than I.  Had I been perceptive, I would have recognized that such was a very valid predictor for what was to come in his life as a remarkable student athlete.

 

Although I moved out of the Winnetka district, we were reunited at Greiner Junior High in the eighth grade. I have known, admired, respected, and yes, loved him dearly since then.

 

Although it has been a while since I have seen him, our lives have intertwined ever since the first meeting. Two very special events in my life will underscore my heartfelt admiration of him. It was he whom Eva and I asked to marry us many moons ago and it was he whom I asked to be one of the pastors at my mom’s funeral many years later.

 

I was working in my office early one afternoon during my tenure as president of Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University), when Marsha, my administrative assistant, approached me sheepishly with the news that there was a man in my office who knew me, would not give his name and had vowed not to leave until he saw me. Thinking that it might be an irate parent or a faculty senate member, or worse still, a dreaded news reporter, I walked cautiously toward the door to get a glimpse. You guessed it!  It was Bobby Coleman.

 

We hugged and chatted for a moment and then, on what would turn out to be a very positive impulse, I asked Marsha to cancel the remainder of my day’s schedule. Bobby and I spent the rest of the day and evening visiting, laughing, reminiscing, reminding each other how much faster, smarter and better looking and skillfully athletic each had been than the other, and, most important, thanking God for our mutually beneficial and long-lasting association.

 

And so, in his unique way, it was he who provided me one of the most memorable times of my eight-year tenure as a university president. 

 

And there were indeed younger and faster times involving the two of us. Believe me, we were the epitome of what we in our times referred to as “runnin’ buddies”. We covered nearly every part of our beloved Oak Cliff as we talked about girls, rode bicycles, hitchhiked, competed intensely and one-on-one against each other, talked about girls, joined as teammates in competition against others, mowed lawns, swam and ran an untold number of races, double-dated, and so on. And, oh, did I mention that we talked about girls?

 

The lawn mowing, covering almost every foot of Edgefield, one of our longest streets, still stands in my mind as a set of fun, rewarding, and great learning experiences. One such really stands out because of the number of laughs we would enjoy almost every time we were together in later years. After we had astutely negotiated our price and laboriously completed the lawn mowing, the lady who owned the property kept finding additional tasks for us such as relocating large rocks. Finally, at my continuing insistence that we ask for more money, the always even-tempered Bobby relented and gave me permission to do so. My profit-motivated suggestion led immediately to her refusing and her calling us communists. Of course, we didn't’t even know what that meant! Our later-life laughter came when we finally figured out that she was more nearly the communist while we were the then unknowing entrepreneurial capitalists.

 

In our youthful years, we loved sports, and participated well together in many of them. We ran and jumped in track, played basketball and softball and paired as partners in tennis. The latter was particularly good for us due to at least three things. While he was fast, I was quick, where he was left-handed, I was right handed, and we were both as highly competitive as most who have ever come down the pike. We were undefeated in tennis in one particular sense! Admittedly, we lost some matches. However, we were always able to move on to the next match as undefeated, at least in our minds, claiming always and relying on the old adage that we were simply behind when those particular matches ended.

 

Bobby was a highly gifted, extraordinary, multi-sport student athlete. In football, he was what we once called a triple-threat player, that is, a fast and powerful runner, a strong and accurate passer, and a punter who could, as we used to say, kick the daylights out of the football and simultaneously have it go in the direction and stop at about the place he had initially set in his mind.

 

In softball, he was a really talented and overpowering pitcher as well as a super hitter.

 

In track, he was extremely fast as a sprinter and a really good broad jumper. While he was repeatedly a winner on winning track teams in formal school competitions, one summertime track meet, when we were about fifteen years old, stands tall in my memory. When we were not mowing lawns, he and I loved to go to Kid Springs Park to participate in well-organized sport competitions among parks from all over the city of Dallas. Our park coach in the summer was Mr. Rufus Moore, who coached Bobby and me for five consecutive years in basketball, two years at Greiner Jr. High and three at Sunset High School. But that’s another story!

 

Getting back to track at Kidd Springs, we were scheduled to travel across town for the meet, but to our initial dismay, only three of us in our age bracket showed up that day, Richard Crutcher, Bobby and I. (parenthetically, the three of us were in a small gang, a much different kind of gang than we know about these days. it was just a fun gang, and we were all required to have nicknames, “handles,” we called them. Richard was “aces,” probably because of his card trick prowess, I was “deadeye,” probably due to my basketball shooting ability and, for some reason that has totally escaped me by now, Bobby carried the handle of “jellybean”.  Again I ramble!

 

When only three of us showed up, Mr. Moore was prepared to send us home except for two reasons. First, we literally begged him to let us do our best in whatever events we could compete in individually, as opposed to the relay race. Second, Mr. Moore had to go to the meet anyway to coach the Kidd Springs Park competitors in the younger age brackets.

 

So, we proceeded and did we compete! Each of us was allowed to enter up to four events. Richard won the softball distance throw, I won the free throw contest, Bobby won a couple of races and we each placed highly in other competitions. As a result, when it came time for the last event, the 440-yard relay race, we were still in the running for the championship but, as had been the case all day, we were stuck with only three.

 

“We’re sunk,” thought jellybean and I. “not so fast,” said the crafty aces. Unbeknownst to us, he had rounded up an eight-year-old boy from Kidd Springs who had one more event that he could enter and who was willing to run the first leg for us. When the young man had finally finished his leg of the race and when Richard, running second, received the baton, he could barely see the competition ahead of him. And, in spite of the fact that he gained some ground by running a respectable leg and I did the same on the third leg, we were still way behind when Bobby took the baton.

 

What happened in his leg still seems like a dream to me. Not only did Bobby catch the other anchor leg runners, he was pulling away from them by the time he finished the race, thereby giving us the team championship. I’am not sure that I ever saw or heard of Bobby running faster, including the entire sanctioned district, bi-district, regional, and state track meets in which he competed.

 

Now, let me return to basketball! Of the many sports in which Bobby participated, basketball was the one in which, while he was very good, he was not quite so accomplished as in the other sports. Nevertheless, he was a valuable part of a set of teams, including eighth and ninth grade teams at Greiner Jr. High, sophomore year b-team at Sunset, and junior and senior year varsity teams at Sunset, that won five straight Dallas city championships. Bobby was one of only two players that played on all five of these championship teams. I was extremely blessed then and am still very thankful to have shared that milestone with him.

 

Bobby was also an outstanding student, both in academics and extra-curricular activities. He received many awards at both Greiner and Sunset, including his being elected to several offices by his fellow students and being selected to several honorary positions by faculty members.

 

Of all the things I remember about him, the following are, in my mind, the most important. Even in his youth, he had so many outstanding qualities that are generally reserved for more mature persons. He was a man’s man, but he had a gentle demeanor that made every person he met feel at ease with him. He was truly a straight shooter who could look people right in the eye and have the person know automatically that Bobby deserved his or her confidence.

 

Of all his many, many talents and qualities, the one that overpowered all the others, again, even at a very early age, was his total commitment to and consistent manifestation of his Christianity.

 

I have been the beneficiary of help from many, many “angels among us” in my life. Bobby Coleman will rank forever among the very best of those. I cannot tell you what a continuing positive impact he has had on me throughout my life and I have every reason to believe that such will continue throughout the remainder of my life.

 

As we roamed the streets of Oak Cliff, several of us, including Bobby, of course, made it clear to each other, probably without saying so explicitly, that we wanted to make our little part of the world a better place than we found it. In that regard, as in many others, Bobby has completely fulfilled his part of the commitment. My personal promise to him today is that I will continue, in honor of him and our other close friends, to strive to fulfill my corresponding pledge.

 

I have my own simple but very meaningful personal testimony to the Christian life of Bobby. In his and my youths, folks often sang a little song that went as follows. “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, every day, every day, I’ll let my little light shine”.

 

My testimony about Bobby is that he let his big light shine every single day that I ever encountered him, no matter what the circumstances, no matter what the setting.

 

I am thankful to God for every moment I spent with him.

 

To repeat, I loved, respected and admired him both as Bobby Coleman and as Dr. Bob Coleman. Many, many of us cherish our memories of him, but his death leaves a substantial void in our lives. For my part, and I am certain that this goes for others, the darkness of that void is softened by my absolute knowledge that he has gone to be with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

March 7, 2008

My memories of Bobby by William M. Crutcher, M.D.

I can not begin to be as eloquent as Lee, but will try to add a few things in my memory about Bobby.  I first met him when we were both attending Sunset High School through his cousin who I was dating.  One of my earliest memories was attending a football game at Dal High when he kicked a bunch of field goals that held the record for most goals kicked in one game for some time, maybe until now.  Bobby was a "big wheel athlete" as was Lee Smith.  We did not cross paths many times during high school.  Our lives became more intertwined when I married his cousin as they attended the same church, First Christian Church.  I can't remember for sure, but I am pretty certain Bobby was in our wedding party, along with his brother Ronnie.  I remember Dr. Hugh Riley who married us assisted by Dr. Wallace Bassett, the pastor of Cliff Temple Baptist church, where I attended with my family.

One knows how long you have known someone by what they call you when you meet.  Bobby always called me "Billy" and he was always "Bobby" unless it had been a long interval since our last meeting when I always called him "Clyde Robert."  I did so the last time I saw him at the Christmas gathering in 2007.  I hardly recognized him, as he was walking with a cane and looked very ill.  He still had the distinct characteristic as described by Lee of looking you straight in the eye when he spoke to you.

Bobby married two of our children, our daughter Sharon, the oldest, and our son Mark, the middle child.  I remember Mark's wedding, as Bobby was recovering from another round of chemotherapy and could barely walk.  I feared he might not be able to stand for the service, but he did his usual admirable job.

Bobby knew I loved hunting, and when I would visit him he usually tried to arrange for a hunt.  One of the more memorable when he was the pastor of a church in Kermit, Texas.  He had a friend and member of his church named Beaky Ezelle.  Beaky had a jeep with a high seat on the back end.  We were running round in the desert around Kermit looking for blue quail.  I remember that I was mostly afraid that I would either fall off the jeep or Bobby might shoot me by accident.  Hunting was not his real sport, he was trying to be the best host he could be.

Bobby was a sweet, compassionate man and I will miss him very much.  We will meet again.  Come soon Lord Jesus!

March 8, 2008

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