Thursday, January 11, 2018

Col. Norman A. Lamb, I'll See You Soon My Friend

Norman Lamb at Normandy, France
Today I will officiate the funeral of my long-time friend, Norman Lamb.

I first met Norman in the 1980's when I served as Chairman of the Christian Life Committee for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. Norman was an Oklahoma state Senator, floor minority leader, and held the distinction of being voted "most popular Senator" by his peers.

Norman and I became friends.

Many who didn't really know him thought him sometimes bombastic and overbearing. Those of us who grew to love him understood his personality - though larger than life - was nothing in size compared to his heart.

Norman was voted by Emmanuel Enid to be on the Pastor Search Committee in 1992 to look for a new pastor. It was Norman who recommended me to his fellow committee members. I came to Enid as a direct result of my friendship with Norman. I knew little about Enid, but I knew Norman Lamb.

One of my favorite stories about Norman was an event that occurred in 1993. Our staff was in Dallas, Texas on a staff retreat, and we went to a local store to purchase gifts for our wives before coming back to Enid. We had discussed in our staff meeting that morning how it seemed everyone knew Norman Lamb. I decided to play a practical joke on my fellow pastors.

While they were looking for gifts for their wives, I went to the young lady who was at the checkout counter. "Miss, in a moment some men will be coming to the checkout counter. They are my friends. I'm going to casually mention the name Norman Lamb, and I want you to act like you know him."

The young lady looked at me and said, "You mean Norman Lamb of Enid, Oklahoma?"

The joke was on me. That young lady and her husband knew Norman Lamb and it only confirmed to me that Norman had friends all over the United States.

Norman and Son, Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb
He was a colonel in the United States Army Reserves. He was an Oklahoma state senator. As a young attorney, Norman served in the Oklahoma County municipal courts. He became a prosecutor and an assistant D.A. in Garfield County.  He would later become the Oklahoma Secretary of Veteran's Affairs, appointed by Gov. Frank Keating, but would serve under several Oklahoma governors and spend more years on the Oklahoma state government cabinet (17 years) than any single person in the history of Oklahoma.

Norman loved people.

He taught the largest Sunday School class at Emmanuel for years. I can't tell you the number of times that Norman and the "Blonde Bomber" (Norman's affectionate name for his wife Belva) hosted people at their home.  I still picture Norman handing out $100 bills to strangers on Christmas Eve, watching as people fell to the curb in tears at the generosity of a complete stranger.

One day Norman picked up a man with car trouble. Norman wound up giving the man a car.

There were times my friendship with Norman hit some rocky roads. A year after I came as pastor, I led the church to change the church constitution, which tied "the sale and use of alcoholic beverages" to church discipline. I explained to the church that drunkenness was a sin according to the Bible, but not the use of alcoholic beverages. I asked them to change the standards of conduct as listed in the constitution to abstinence from drunkenness.

Norman came to my office and told me that if he'd known I was going to do that, he never would have recommended me to Emmanuel. I explained to Norman that it was my fault for not noticing this provision in the constitution, and I understood his feelings, but my conscience was bound to Scripture, not the pleasures of a friend. It rankled Norman that the church voted over 95% to change the constitution, but I think he appreciated the fact I lived by my convictions which I perceived as biblical, even if he disagreed.

By the way, Norman Lamb's grandmother was the President of the Oklahoma Temperance Movement and friends with Carrie Amelia Nation. I appreciated Norman's conviction on this issue.

Col. Lamb reading about Col. Vance
On another occasion in the late 1990's, I was preaching through the book of Romans. We had come to Romans 9 and I was dealing with the very difficult text on the doctrine of God's sovereign election of sinners to salvation. Norman came to my office, sat down, and said, "Wade, I think it's time you stopped preaching on the election." I explained to Norman that I had about four more messages from Romans 9. He offered that he didn't like the series in Romans, and wished I would finish the entire series quickly.

"Norman," I said, "I've got about another year and a half in the book of Romans." He told me he might not attend the services. I explained that since he was the church, everywhere he went he represented Christ, and if he chose not to attend, that was his prerogative, and I appreciated the fact he came to talk to me.

For a while, Norman taught his Sunday School class and left, not staying for church services. When I finished Romans, he was back.

And our friendship grew.

The thing I appreciate about Norman Lamb is that he didn't have to agree with you to be your friend.

In the climate in which we live, both in the church and in the political world, people are drawing lines in the sand - often helped by social media - saying, "Unless you talk like I and believe like I, unless you do everything like I do and affirm all I affirm and disavow all I disavow, we cannot be friends."

Norman Lamb never said that to anyone.

For the past 15 years, until Norman's health declined a couple of years ago, Norman and I traveled to Oklahoma University football games together.

Try walking with an Oklahoma Baptist preacher and an Oklahoma Republican politician through a throng of 90,000 people. It sometimes took us over an hour to get to our seats. We knew so many people, and Norman and I love talking with people and hearing their stories.

Wade and Norman, OU Game 2011
It was through Norman I became friends with Jakie Sandefer. We'd go to Jakie's house in Norman, Oklahoma and eat pre-game tailgate food and fellowship with all the great football players of the past as well as many of the University of Oklahoma coaches, both past, and present.

In 2013 Norman and I traveled to England and Europe. This United States Army Colonel and former Secretary of Veteran's Affairs had never been to the WWII battlefields in Europe. I took him to Normandy. We went to Churchill's Museum in London. We saw the sites.

And we met the people.

Everywhere we went we made friends. One of the leading liberal politicians in England is also named Norman Lamb. You should have seen the conversation at the House of Commons between the Lambs. One was actually a lion, the other a lamb (I bet you can guess which one).

Dinner in Paris, France, 2013
From the United States federal marshalls who rode on the plane with us, to the stewardesses, the museum archivists at St. Paul's, the American Cemetery in Normandy, and Buckingham Palace, to the limo drivers and hotel clerks, Norman A. Lamb made new friends.

Norman A. Lamb was a star football player at Enid High School and a starting quarterback for Cameron University before he broke his back his sophomore year.

He went on to become Bud Wilkinson's inside man at the athletic dorm, reporting to the legendary coach on any problems occurring in the dorm.

Norman Lamb was not a perfect man.

Nobody is.

But when Norman would lead out in prayer, it would be to "The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit," for Norman understood that his salvation was tied to the Father's love, the Son's sacrifice, and the Spirit's work.

I've lost many friends to death over the past couple of years. Many close friends.

When we put Norman Lamb's body into the ground in about an hour, I will say goodbye to another very close friend.

But I look forward to the day of renewed fellowship with them all.

For death is not the end; it's only a transition to eternity.

To Norman's wife, Belva, daughters Kim and Fawn and their respective families, and to his son Todd, and Todd's family, our thoughts and prayers are with you all. Norman loved each of you and was proud of you.

Goodbye, Col. Norman A. Lamb.

I'll see you soon my friend.


Rex Ray said...


I believe as “iron sharpens iron”, you’re a ‘better’ man for having Norman as your friend.

I admire his NOT attending the preaching service. I’ve thought about skipping our song service.

Many years ago our church had a sign that said, “The sale and use of alcoholic beverages is forbidden.” The church never voted to remove it but it disappeared. One deacon had an establishment that sold liquor.

BTW, I’d drink wine everyday if it was made from water. :)

David Cecil said...

Thank you for sharing your reflections on Col. Lamb, Wade. Reading through your post touched me, even though I never knew Norman Lamb of Enid, Oklahoma - I am preparing for the funeral of a similarly great man in my life. He served as the Executive Director for our church when they called me as pastor. His name is still on some of our accounts - I never felt the need to "move him off." He was twice my age, but my best and closest friend here. If he ever disliked something I did, he must have covered it up with love and pressed on. I am certain his encouragement over the years has been a key part of my still being a pastor. His death has been very hard on me, somewhat of a bittersweet answer to prayer from my first years of doing funerals for people I didn't even know. I suppose I am on the front end of saying goodbye to friends. Well, I don't know why I'm getting into all of this, other than the close connection of Col. Lamb's funeral today and the one I'm doing tomorrow. I guess I just needed to share, too.

I pray the funeral was a wonderful celebration of life and faith.

Scott Shaver said...

Koolaid should work for you Rex ;)

Rex Ray said...


I just learned this:

For instance if someone makes a comment on your post, they can see it but no one else can if they have been ‘Shadow ban’. Crazy world-huh?

I know that hasn’t happened to me because Scott Shaver said “Kool-Aid should work for me.

Scott, wonder if Kool-Aid declined after Jim Jones started a mass suicide by drinking poison Kool-Aid in Jonestown.

I believe the guy that made a comment after yours that advertises whatever should experience a good “Shadow ban’. No smiley face!

Wade Burleson said...


I don't check my blog often (maybe once a day) for comments. No notifications when a comment is made.

The guy advertising "slots" (in the comment above yours, which I've since deleted) targets "popular blogs."

I agree with you - I should "Shadow Ban" him - i just don't know how. :)

Anonymous said...

I had met Mr. Lamb only a handful of times face to face. And each time I normally walked away with no idea who he was as far as position politics or power. After some time at Emmanuel I got to know him better, but only through his reputation, not very much more in a personal way. But being a veteran of the Air Force I heard of and saw the trail of his love for those of us who had served. Again, his reputation preceded him in many ways, but when you just met the man, his heart was the focus and he made you feel as important as any of the higher ranking society members he may have access to or even be himself. A beloved man, and one who will be missed. I know that Pege always had a very high view of his character and his work. God bless this beautiful man in his rest.

Jeff Rogers

Rex Ray said...


I check for new comments on your blog by making a list on a sheet of paper of about 8 blogs and the number of comments of each. I scan down and see if the number has increased.

The last comment on ‘male vs. female has the same guy you deleted.

Wade Burleson said...

That guy's a persistent little bugger, isn't he!

Scott Shaver said...

Jim Jones notwithstanding,Kool-Aid has always been a personal favorite with me. Prefer grape or black cherry. If it could be used as substitute for watered-down grape juice at Lord's Supper, I would go along😁

Rex Ray said...


The least appropriate atmosphere in our church taking the Lord’s Supper was when four of us deacons took three minutes struggling to remove the lid of the grape juice container.

I heard some snickering.