Henry N. Lamar, coach of Harvard boxing for more than four decades, died of cancer Saturday. He was 79.
Lamar came to Harvard in 1931, ostensibly "just to help out for a few weeks," but he stayed until June 1972, when 500 admirers jammed the Harvard Club at his retirement. He held the longest tenure of any boxing coach in Harvard's history.
Lamar also served as football coach between 1943, and 1945, and as the junior varsity football coach during the late '40s.
Sportswriters, players, and fans referred to Lamar as "the gentleman coach of Harvard boxing."
Current Crimson boxing Coach Tommy Rawson, who met Lamar in the late 1920s and worked with him at Harvard, spoke of him in glowing terms. "He was an outstanding gentleman and gamesman," Rawson said.
Rawson also praised Lamar's coaching and motivational skills. "He straightened out a lot of boys," said Rawson. "He was like a father to them."
Among the many students Lamar coached were the four Kennedy brothers.
As a tribute to Lamar's tradition of helpfulness, Harvard gives the Henry Lamar Award to "athletes who demonstrate the spirit of cooperation."
After Lamar's retirement in 1972. Harvard boxers found themselves, facing tougher opponents than ever before and the sport became intramural, rather than intercollegiate. Under Rawson's direction, the program still thrives in the Indoor Athletic Building.
Lamar was born in Oxford, Miss., to Lucius and Atala Lamar. He grew up in Washington, D.C., where his father was employed by the government.
Before he came to Harvard in 1931. Lamar had an outstanding career as a fighter. He won the national amateur light heavyweight championship in 1925, as a high school senior, in a bout at the Boston Garden. He also held the Pan-American light heavyweight title.
After he was graduated from the University of Virginia in 1929, he boxed professionally until he lost a bout to Jim Maloney at Boston's Braves Field in 1930. He told a friend, "That's enough. I'm never going to be a champion...this is a good time to get out."
The Braves Field bout did not mark the end of Lamar's association with professional boxing. In the 1950s, after some 20 years as Harvard's boxing coach, he was named chairman of the Massachusetts Boxing Commission.
Lamar's appointment was hailed by boxers, promoters, and fans. He remained popular during his tenure, initiating efforts to clean up and reform Bay State boxing. He called for a review of all licenses, state investigations of failed promotions, and the institution of club suspensions.
His program of compulsory braindamage examinations has been credited with saving many lives.
Lamar was also lauded for his willingness to make controversial decisions. He once suspended middleweight champion Sugar Ray Robinson after the fighter walked out on a Boston Garden fight. He also invited controversy by having Massachusetts withdraw from the National Boxing Association.
Many of Lamar's ancestors played important roles in American history. His great-grandfather, L.Q.C. Lamar, was one of the first Confederate lawyers to work with Union leaders after the Civil War. Other famous relatives include the second president of the Republic of Texas and a U.S. senator from Missouri.
Lamar's wife, the former Juanita Galvin, passed away in 1978. The couple had been married 49 years.
Lamar is survived by two daughters, Mrs. Marilyn Coldwell of Southborough and Dr. Judy Lamar of Topsfield, Mass., and by his sister, Mrs. Atala Lessard of Falmouth Fireside, Maine. Lamar also had two granddaughters and several nephews and nieces.
Memorial services will be held Wednesday at 10 a.m. at Pilgrim Congregational Church in Southborough. Contributions may be made to the Henry Nicholson Lamar Scholarship Fund, in care of Harvard University.