A look at the always fair Don Lady

Published 8:34 am Friday, March 22, 2019

When you have a child playing sports or you just go to watch your favorite team or alma mater, one thing you really look for is if there is a good referee or umpire. 

You have attended many games over the years and have become knowledgeable of the good ones from the bad ones.  Guys like Rocky Davenport in baseball or Dennis Whitson in basketball who know the rules, and no matter what team is playing, you know you’re going to get a good call.   One of those guys who I loved to work with on the baseball field was Don Lady.

Born in 1939, Lady was a baseball umpire for many years with the TSSAA and worked area tournaments for Pappy Crowe in Little League, Babe Ruth, and Dizzy Dean baseball.   Don Lady has worked many of the Amateur Youth League World Series and the Dizzy Dean State tournaments numerous times. 

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Lady lives in the Chinquapin Grove community and has been a member of the M.M. Martin Masonic Lodge for over 40 years.  He graduated from Bluff City High School in 1958 where he played baseball and lettered for four years helping his team to the win the league tournament in 1957. 

Don attended Milligan College and graduated with a BS degree in Administration.  His first teaching job was at Holston Valley School where he taught for three years.  In 1973, he continued his teaching at Sullivan East High School and stayed until he retired in 2001.  At East, he taught Biology for nine years before being named Athletic Director.  In 1980 with 32-years in education, he moved to assistant principal.  He coached football for two years and was President of the Big Seven and the Big Ten Conferences.  Don also served on the TSSAA Board of Directors for several years in District One.  Lady attended the TSSAA State Athletic Directors Conference every year from 1986 until he retired.

At Sullivan East, his sports teams were very successful.  The girls’ basketball team went to the state tournament three times, and the volleyball team made two trips to the final games.  They won the conference several times with some individual players who went on to advance to state play.  They also won a state baseball championship.

Don has always been a fair man in class, in leadership, and as a TSSAA official.  You know when you arrived at the baseball game and saw Don on the field that he was in control and the game would be ran right and by the book.  He umpired for over fifty years, working high school and college baseball games.  He has worked two baseball state tournaments and over forty District and Regional play-off games.  In his prime years, he worked over 200 games a year including USSSA and AAU games, working high school, college, and semi-pro games.

  “We called together for years,” said Rocky Davenport. “Don and Frank Greer were just like brothers.  He called in many tournaments even after he was 70-years old.  He loved the game and was a great umpire. He was well respected by coaches and players. He was not only a good umpire he is a really great guy.”

Don served as President of the THSAAA for two years and was Vice President two years prior.  As a member of the NIAAA, he attended eleven National Athletic Directors Conferences and served as a member of the Tennessee Hart Committee at the National A.D. Convention in Nashville.  In 1998, he received the NIAAA Award of Merit for Distinguished Service.

In 2000, Don was selected TSSAA AD of the year and elected to the TSSAA Hall of Fame in 2011.  He received the TIAAA Distinguished Award in 2012 and won the Tennessee Baseball Distinguished Award in 2013.  He is a former commissioner of the High School Umpire Association (Holston Umpires Association of Kingsport.) Lady is still helping our Tri-Cities umpiring through association evaluating and critiquing young umpires.

In his spare time, Don enjoys fishing, and he is a Taxidermist.  He rides motorcycles and loves working around his house.