Dr. Lawrence McNamee, renowned professor and boxing aficionado, dies at the age of 89
From Staff Reports

July 20, 2006 — COMMERCE, Texas — Dr. Lawrence Francis McNamee, a retired professor of literature and languages at Texas A&M University-Commerce, died Monday at his home in Commerce.

But Dr. McNamee, described by many as a "modern Rennaissance man," was known for far more than his teaching career.

Born in Pittsburgh, Pa., in 1917, McNamee became known for the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball cap that he was never seen without. He once tried out for the team.

During World War II he worked for the Office of Strategic Service, or OSS, a forerunner of the CIA. He also served as an interpreter during the interrogations of Nazis at the Nuremberg War Crime Trials.

NcNamee had a distinguished 37-year career in A&M-Commerce's literature and languages department, where he taught English and set up the first German classes at the university, formerly known as East Texas State University, in the early 1950s.

He also served as a consultant for the Encyclopedia Britannica German Dictionary in the mid 1950s.

A Shakespearean scholar, he would take a traveling troupe of actors to visit state prisons and schools to perform the Bard's plays. His love of acting led him to corresponding with British screen legend Sir Laurence Olivier.

He was among the first to classify dissertations and his work, "A Bibliography of All English Literature Dissertations Accepted by German, British and American Universities Since 1865," formed the basis of later classifications.

A&M-Commerce President Dr. Keith McFarland says, "Texas A&M University-Commerce and the Commerce community will long remember Dr. McNamee and his trademark - a Pittsburg Pirates cap. His love of boxing brought a different perspective to his role as professor of literature and languages."

Dr. Paul Zelhart, interim head of literature and languages at A&M-Commerce, says, "There is so much swirling around Lawrence McNamee. He was such a positive character that when you encountered him you knew you had met a personality."

He learned to love boxing from his father, who was a professional boxer, and this passion took McNamee around the world. A prolific writer, he wrote five books and thousands of articles on the sport for newspapers and magazines such as "Boxing Magazine" and "Sports Illustrated." It also led to him meeting and befriending boxing greats like George Foreman and Max Schmeling. He defended Schmeling, a life-long friend, against accusations that he had been a Nazi, pointing out that German sporting legend had given sanctuary to two Jewish brothers.

"McNamee is a legend. He is the greatest man I have ever met. He has interviewed every major boxing athlete in the world, and his pioneering work in the community has helped many less privileged," says Sulphur Springs resident C.J. Duffey, a former welterweight and junior middleweight contender who taught boxing on the A&M-Commerce campus.

NcNamee also found time to co-author "A Few Words," a weekly Dallas Morning News column on English usage, which ran for about 20 years on Sundays.

"He had an amazing network of people because of all his interests," says Dr. Fred Tarpley, former head of literature and languages at A&M-Commerce. "He was also among the first people to recognize the potential of using computer mainframes for research."

He relaxed by organic gardening and, as an accomplished violinist, enjoyed listening to music. His keen sense of humor saw him noting, under achievements in his personnel file, that he had placed second in a coffee-drinking contest at a faculty lounge.

He would use new vocabulary vividly and illustratively in his language building classes, constructing sentences like, "Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the histrionics?"

McNamee suffered a stroke several years ago from which he never fully recovered. 

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