E. Roy Lambert
Statesman’s death leaves hole in county
story by Tara Derock Mahoney
W. H. Auden said, “Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone; prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone; silence the pianos and with muffled drum...let the mourners come.”
In Madison last Sunday, that is just what happened as nearly 500 people came to the First United Methodist Church to honor the life and mourn the death of native son Roy Lambert, who passed away February 22 at age 82, after a brief illness.
Ezekiel Roy Lambert was an attorney, banker, farmer, and retired Georgia senator and representative, who enjoyed a storied career that covered more than 25 years in the legislature. He spent time in the Navy during World War II, and he spent time in Atlanta at the Capitol,but, beyond that, he spent every waking moment that he could in his beloved Madison and Morgan County, where he could spend time outdoors with his family and friends.
He loved to come home after being in the office all day, get a big chaw of tobacco and go out to the farm, said Lambert's widow and wife of 54 years, Chris.
Daughter Anne Trulock remembers waiting as a child for her father to come home from work so that she and her older sister and younger brother could head out to the country with him to attend to the family's beef cattle.
“Daddy would let us drive the truck on the farm, and he would stand in the back while he dropped hay or cow feed over the side,” said Anne. “He could honk the horn on that truck and the cows would come running.”
Lambert was known as a Southern gentleman of the old school, a man who could carry off seersucker suits on the beach with panache, and who always carried a pocket watch and a silver dollar minted in 1925, the year of his birth.
He is fondly remembered for his inability to remember, upon occasion, the names of his closest friends and associates, instead falling back upon an always-friendly, “Hey, baby,” or “How 'bout it, hoss?” Far from affronting people, he had the ability, rather, of making his acquaintances feel that he had given them their own special nickname.
Lambert and his sister, Mary Annethe elder by just 22 months,were born and raised in the family home of Hilltop, on North Main Street in Madison. As a child Lambert attended the Madison Graded School (now the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center) and frequently arrived there by way of a ride on the running board of a neighbor's car. Always of an entrepreneurial bent, as a young boy he worked at the Rock Store, a large general store located approximately where the downtown Bank of Madison is today. The owner kept cows out back, and young Roy would milk cows and deliver the milk to customers before school each morning.
He attended Morgan County High School and played football; he would later laugh about himself as a triple threat, said Chris. He said he would 'stumble, fumble, and fall', she said with a smile. He played saxophone in a local band, and was admitted to the University of Georgia. While there, the United State entered World War II, and Roy enlisted with the Navy. He was eventually sent to Tokyo Bay (They sent me out there and lost my number, he would joke later), but finally returned to UGA after the war to complete his business degree and attend law school, as his father had done before him.
He was admitted to the Georgia Bar in 1950 and began practicing law in Madison (today the firm he started is called Lambert, Reitman, and Abney, LLC). Shortly after beginning his law career, he met his future wife Chris on a famous blind date set up by friends, who told each of them that the other was hard of hearing. Lambert later said of that evening, We went to a dance in Covington. After several numbers on the dance floor, we realized the practical joke. One thing about it, we got the attention of each other. The two married in May of 1954, and celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 2004.
Lambert's father had been a member of the state legislature, and when he saw an opportunity to run for a local senatorial seat for a 1955-1956 term, he took it and won. He served a second term in 1961 and 1962; in 1963 he shifted gears slightly and ran for a seat in the state House of Representatives, which he won and retained until he decided to retire in 1985. During his time in Atlanta, he served as Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Chairman of the House Rules and Industry committees, and he also served as Floor Leader for eight years promoting legislation favored by Georgia Governor George Busbee. He eventually left the Capitol to return to Madison full-time, and to become the President of the Board of Directors of the Bank of Madison.
Roy and Chris were blessed with three children, Leigh, Anne, and Zeke; today the family has grown to include two sons-in-law and four grandchildrenWill Goff, and Christine, Mary Helen, and Sutton Trulock. Lambert instilled in his children a sense of the importance of community and service, and exemplified that lesson by his active leadership in the Madison First United Methodist Church, the Madison-Morgan Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Committee, the Madison Kiwanis Club, American Legion and VFW, the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Gridiron Society, most of which he led as president. He was a member of the State Bar of Georgia, the American Bar Association, the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit Bar Association (for which he served a term as president), and the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association. He was admitted to practice in the Georiga Supreme Court; the Georgia Court of Appeals; the United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit; and the United States District Courts, Middle and Northern Districts of Georgia.
Lambert enjoyed many professional and personal accolades during his lifetime; some of the most meaningful moments to him included being name the first Business Legend of the Madison-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce in 2004; receiving the Chief Justice Robert Benham Award for Community Service; receiving the Georgia Legislative Service Award from the Georgia Municipal Association in 1975; being recognized for distinctive service to the Board of Visitors of the University of Georgia from 1981-1983; receiving a Conservation Service Award from Ducks Unlimited in 1986; and receiving a commendation from Governor Sonny Purdue in 2005.
Lambert once said, I'm enjoying a wonderful life, thanks to my family and friends. I trust that I have made a contribution to help improve our community and prepare it for the next generation...with good leadership, we can preserve and protect our beautiful community, and have quality growth while creating job opportunities for our young people.
Lambert is survived by his wife, Christine; his daughters Leigh Goff and Anne Trulock; his son Zeke; his four grandchildren; and his sister, Mary Anne Broadrick.
“There's just this big, big hole in my heart,” said Chris.
Or, as Auden said, He was my North, my South, my East and West; my working week and my Sunday rest...the stars are not wanted now: put out every one; pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
A Morgan County legend has gone to rest.