Loran Smith: On Tommy Lawhorne

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Loran Smith: On Tommy Lawhorne

Loran Smith
Loran Smith

The Golden Isles have never been more golden than today with more and more people wanting to settle down into easy and laid-back living after years of keeping their nose to the grindstone in their chosen profession.  The quality of life here is being touted as being as good as you could want.

There is something for everyone from all walks of life—from shell searching, to fishing and hunting and especially golf.  There’s tennis, bird watching and photo-ops galore.   Come here for a week, a month or for life and you can play golf to your heart’s content—on courses that not only challenge the everyday player but the best in the world.





Professionals like Davis Love, Harris English, Brian Harmon, Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar among others have identified with the good living amenities of this area and have chosen to make their homes here.  With Jacksonville’s international airport only an hour away, these worldwide travelers, along with many well-to-do residents, can embark to any port in the world with uncomplicated connections.

The appealing environment of the Golden Isles makes passionate drumbeaters out of the locals who want prosperity to continue to flourish, angling for a repetitive and sustained cycle.

There is much ado about those with Bulldog allegiance who work, play and retire here.  Like Tommy Lawhorne, for example.  He arrived in Athens the same time as Vince Dooley with whom he developed a gentlemanly rapport and mutual admiration society while establishing himself as a competent linebacker with extraordinary intellect and a well-roundedness for the ages.





His credentials were essentially that he was an A+ student who also happened to play football.  He had ingrained passion for the game, dating back to his grade school days in Worth Country—but would have been offended at the notion that he would ever become one dimensional.

Lawhorne was atypical to most college athletes of his era and with many who cast their lot with the Bulldogs.  He considered football an upstanding game, but he signed a grant-in-aid as a means to earn a degree with someone else picking up the tab—as great of a tradeoff as there has ever been in our society.

He was a small-town boy who was raised where cotton, peanuts and corn were agricultural staples, along with pine trees and the Bob White Quail—a country boy who was blessed with an extraordinary drive and intellect which would bode well for his future.   The Ivy League was well within his reach, but he aspired to play football and matriculate at his state university.  After all, the brand of football was the best in the land, and he held UGA in high academic esteem.  Later, when he hung out his shingle, he was, in part, a Georgia boy with a Georgia education and proud of it.

Lawhorne played on an SEC championship team, earned three letters in football and experienced national network television looking over his shoulder as he wore the red and back.  That satiated his football objectives, but he would have appreciated it if the announcers had told the world that he arrived in Athens with his first priority being to earn a degree.  Philosophically, today, he laments that there are all too many college football players give the earning of a diploma the back of their hand.

He bonded with his teammates, some with goals and ambitions, some not.  He helped them with their homework.  He offered sage advice and inspired them to take advantage of opportunity.  He developed a special relationship with a Jewish teammate and befriended his family.  When maladies and downturns came about when they became middle age—cancer, heart disease and the like, he was a source of counsel and hope to their families.

His one-time roommate was, Ronnie Jenkins, a woodsman who struggled with fulfilling degree requirements, but persevered and reached his objective.  Nobody was prouder than Tommy Lawhorne who has been known to take time off from work to reach out and visit with his former teammates and offer help and medical advice.  Sometimes, unfortunately, it has been condolences.    Altruism has always been a staple of his medical satchel.

When he completed degree requirements at Johns Hopkins—where he took pleasure in knowing that he was as equipped to excel in the advanced curriculum as the private school aficionados who were given to snobbery with respect to their academic background—he settled down in Columbus to practice medicine.

He and his sagacious wife, Susan, a native of Atlanta, raised their children, Tom and Gervaise who followed in their sire’s medical footsteps.  Tom is a local orthopedic and Gervaise a dermatologist living in New York City.

By the time he retired from medical practice in 2020, Tommy and Susan had chosen a high-rise residence in downtown Columbus, overlooking the Chattahoochee—picturesque, becoming and gripping, but the allure of grandchildren made them uproot and make the cross-state move to the Golden Isles.

As soon as he settled in, Lawhorne, after a cursory inquiry, discovered that there is an amendment on the books that allows any Georgia resident, 65 years of age or older to audit any course taught in the University system for free.  So long as there is space for the regular students.

It was like throwing a rabbit in a briar patch.  There is no place like home for Thomas W. Lawhorne than a classroom.  His intellectual capacity and motivation are a reminder that a person never grows too old to accumulate knowledge and that there is no limit to learning if you have an inquiring mind.  This old Dawg is a good and great American.





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