Raymond McAlister: Lawton’s Ambassador
Most sports fans are well aware of certain celebrities or heroes who are so good at what they do that they are known simply by one name.
Take Pele, Nemar and Messi in soccer.
From the world of professional golf emerged Tiger.
And from the NBA there's LeBron and Magic among other greats.
Lawton is no different; our hero is Raymond. Few knew his last name; there was no need.
But wherever he ventured, people recognized him.
That's why when word started spreading Wednesday that he had passed away, people made phone calls to friends, they posted on Facebook and Twitter; some cried.
It's hard to explain in this country that seems split down the middle that there was a simple man who could bring people together regardless of their differences.
Raymond had no enemies just friends who loved how he managed to do so much despite fighting Down syndrome and diabetes during his 60 years on this earth.
While he wasn't swift of foot like those sports figures above, he somehow seemed to be wherever something was happening in the Lawton-Fort Sill community.
The first thing I thought about when I heard the news of his death was an event that happened years ago on a hot summer day in August when the Lawton Rangers were holding their annual birthday/rodeo parade.
That year people on the floats were fanning themselves, drinking water and just being miserable. The Rangers didn't allow anyone to walk that year because of the heat.
It didn't bother Raymond. He was riding his trusty bike at the front of the parade, complete with his straw cowboy hat and always-present American flag.
Just a couple hours later as I drove to the LO Ranch Arena east of town to document the nightly rodeo action, I spotted Raymond pedaling toward the same location, eager to get there early enough to make sure he had time to go up and "update" rodeo announcer Charlie Throckmorton on the latest happenings.
That's Raymond in a nutshell he loved being a part of anything happening in Lawton.
There are few members of this community who didn't know, or who were at least aware of, Raymond.
Raymond's early years
My first knowledge of him came during my early years on the sports staff. One of my first assignments was typing in the results from the Special Olympics swimming competition. Raymond either won or placed in the top three in every swimming event.
Back then he was a teenager attending the Greiner School for the Handicapped and it was evident from the first day I saw him that he loved the Special Olympics and always looked forward to competing.
Later in life he just enjoyed being a part of the festivities in any manner that officials needed him.
That first contact with Raymond launched a friendship that lasted more than 45 years. Over those years we had countless encounters because of our jobs. Plus we both loved sports and all the color that surrounds the competition.
There was that period in Raymond's younger years where he fell in love with music and the high school bands in Lawton. Lawton High School made sure he had a sharp red blazer; then the other two schools followed suit.
Somebody presented him a small conductor's baton, and for several seasons he "directed the bands" while Bob Pyle (LHS), Charles Millender (Mac) and David Lucas (Ike) would stand behind and help him perfect his skills.
That was just one of many "jobs" he would hold down during his always-interesting life.
On the crime beat
Of course, supporting law enforcement was a longstanding part of Raymond's story. It was at a football game where he met a young Lawton police officer named C.H. Brazzell, who was working security for the event.
That started a relationship that grew into a father-son bond that overcame any obstacle Raymond faced. C.H. was the stabilizing force in Raymond's life, standing by his side up to that last breath.
In no time, Raymond was a regular at the police department, even getting his own desk where he could keep up with the comings and goings on his ever-present yellow legal pad.
That love for law enforcement soon found Raymond making trips to the Comanche County Courthouse where he sat in on more trials than most every police reporter who ever worked that busy beat for The Constitution. Many a night the phone would ring and it would be Raymond, offering the verdict that a jury had handed down at a late hour as the reporter pounded out a story while trying to beat deadline.
The next day he'd come by the office to get another reporter's notepad so he could go back "to work for us."
Old friend David Bradley and I spent many a day on the golf course, and we always were amazed at how accurate and helpful Raymond was to both The Constitution and Channel 7, where Bradley spent many years as a sports director and later news anchor.
It seemed like he lived at the courthouse at times; those calls coming at all hours of the day and night, whenever big trials were being adjudicated. While that may have been his day job, sports was his night job and he seldom missed an event.
There was the Lawton Speedway where he loved being the flagman, waving those colored wands as well as any seasoned pro, standing on his own platform beside his "assistant." Many a driver can attest to Raymond's knowledge of dirt-track racing as he black-flagged more than one driver over the years for breaking the rules or driving a damaged car.