Cardinal wings in heaven plane crash in beaumont 50 years ago killed lamar mile-relay team, their coach, pilot – port arthur news port arthur news electricity generation capacity


To Clark, who has led Lamar’s track program since August 1999, the idea is much like what Tyrus “Ty” Terrell had in mind when he took his Southland-champion Lamar State College of Technology mile relay, or 4×400-meter, team to competitions like a meet in Xalapa, Mexico, to compete against an all-star Mexican team in April 1968. (The Summer Olympics were held later that year in Mexico City.)

“Just as Coach Terrell took those men and others to the Border Olympics, Texas Relays and Drake Relays, our goal, as a staff, is to put our student-athletes in the right competition at the right time of the season, in order to give them the best opportunities to be successful,” Clark said via email.

John Richardson, 20, of Port Neches; Waverly Thomas, 20, of Galveston; Randy Clewis, 19, of Palestine; Don DeLaune, 20, of La Marque and Mike Favazza, 20, of Houston comprised Lamar Tech’s highly touted mile relay team. Thomas was the team captain, according to Lamar’s student newspaper at the time.

Richardson lettered three years in track and basketball at Port Neches-Groves High. He won the district 880-yard, or 800-meter, dash and recorded a season-best 1:59.2 as a senior in 1965. As a basketball player that season, he averaged 16.5 points per game.

The five men hoped to defend Lamar’s conference title in the mile relay and were gaining national attention in 1968. DeLaune substituted for an injured Favazza at the Border Olympics in Laredo and helped the Cardinals, who were coming into their own as a mid-major power in athletics, upset the University of Texas and Rice with a then-national best 3:07.5.

The Lamar unit then traveled to Des Moines, Iowa, to compete in the Drake Relays at Drake University. Their teammate, Johnny Fuller, finished third in the decathlon that was held at Iowa State in Ames on Thursday, April 25. He flew round-trip via commercial airline, leaving Tuesday and returning Thursday evening.

Charter flights were seen as cost-effective for a school that hadn’t yet attained university status but competed in the “university division” at Drake. “University division” was a common term for programs competing in what is now known as NCAA Division I.

“Apparently, the pilot of the plane, close to final approach, had a heart attack and died,” Caldwell said. “Ty Terrell was riding co-pilot. He had flown before and was vaguely familiar. He tried to land the plane, but it hit the left side. It bounced after it hit and exploded the fuel tank.”

A memorial service for the perished team members was held at 1:30 p.m. the next day at Lamar’s McDonald Gym. Among the pallbearers were athletic director J.B. Higgins, head men’s basketball coach Jack Martin and assistant coach Billy Tubbs, who went on to greater fame as Oklahoma’s head coach in the 1980s.

“Many people have asked, ‘What can we do for the college in this hour of tragedy?’ Lamar President Richard W. Setzer told The Redbird. “We as simply: Attend this memorial track meet and do the one thing that coach Terrell most wanted throughout his life — enjoy track.”

Charter plane crashes involving athletes and musicians have occurred all too often. Citizens of Jefferson County were reminded of the Feb. 3, 1959, wreck that claimed Sabine Pass native and former Lamar student J.P. “Big Bopper” Richardson and fellow musicians Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens along with pilot Roger Peterson in Clear Lake, Iowa.

On Oct. 2, 1970, one of two chartered planes carrying the Wichita State football team to a game at Utah State crashed into a mountain 8 miles west of Silver Plume, Colorado, killing 29 of 40 on board at the scene (two more died under medical care). The following Nov. 14, a jet carrying 37 Marshall University football players, their head coach, team doctors, the athletic director and 25 team boosters — clipped a stand of trees and crashed 2 miles from the Tri-State Airport in Kenova, West Virginia, on its way back from a 17-14 loss to East Carolina. All 75 on board died.

Other notable fatal plane crashes include the Feb. 15, 1961, accident claiming all 25 members of the U.S. figure skating team in Brussels; a Jan. 10, 1980, wreck in the Atlantic Ocean off Virginia killing LSU football coach Bo Rein and a pilot; a Jan. 27, 2001, crash in Strasburg, Colorado, killing 10 persons (including two players, two pilots, staff members and broadcasters) associated with the Oklahoma State men’s basketball team following a loss at Colorado; and a Nov. 28, 2016, accident in Colombia claiming 42 people (19 players) associated with the Chapecoense soccer team. (Twenty-nine others died.)

“I want our athletes today to honor their memory by representing Lamar University and Southeast Texas just as those men did, with great character, dignity and athletic achievements,” Clark said. “Today, their portrait and Mile Relay Champions trophy from the Border Olympics is displayed in my office and reminds me of the type of quality student-athletes that we want in our program.”