By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH
Laws, who now coaches young people himself in Atlantic County and serves as award-winning president of the Hamilton Youth Athletic Association, was an All-American with James as his coach at Stockton University.
James was part of world-record setting 4×400 meter relay team that won gold at the tumultuous 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City and finished second in the 400-meter run. He coached and served as athletic director at Stockton 28 years before dying of colon cancer in 2008.
Stockton named its track and soccer facility after him a year before he died. Laws, now a successful Farmers Insurance agent, said he learned so much more from James than just track and field.
More Than a Runner
“I had always admired Larry for his Olympic gold and silver medals won in 1968,” Laws recently told Front Runner New Jersey.com. “However I learned much more than being a runner in the 400 meter from Larry James. I learned to be a man.
“A man takes responsibility for his commitments. As part of the nationally ranked 4×400 relay I had to make sure I didn’t let my teammates, my coach, my school and myself down. I learned that faith in God and myself being powered by God could accomplish anything,” he added.
Laws said he now has a goal of building a new indoor track and sports facility in Mays Landing in honor of his former coach and mentor.
“The G. Larry James Sports and Wellness Center could be the great economic infusion to Atlantic county when completed,” Laws said. “I have stepped down from a lot of things these days. I found that I needed to focus on the things that are near and dear to me. This meant saying no to a lot of other groups.”
Impacting Young Lives
Laws, like James did for him, is now shaping the minds and abilities of young athletes as president of the Hamilton Youth Athletic Association.
“The HYAA is a youth program that was designed to offer kids of every social economic and skill level to play football,” Laws said. “When I took over the program I expanded it to track and field, and basketball. We also have a summer STEM camp that we partner with Atlantic Cape Community College. Our football program plays in the CAJFL which is an unlimited weight league. This allows all kids to play.”
Laws is a supporter of the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative, which works with troubled youth. He said the organization best attributes is its collective work with others in the area.
“JDAI is a great initiative,” Laws said. “Their focus was to evaluate current conditions in youth detention and offer change. While I was not officially on their board, I was allowed to attend the meetings and offer advice. The most exciting thing about that group was the honest reporting of the stats, and the inclusion of a large array of different organizations.”
Two Party ‘Gang Mentality’
Laws served on the Hamilton Township Committee in 2016, replacing Republican Amy Gatto who left to become an Atlantic County Freeholder. Laws ran the position one other time. He said he left him thinking how things can, and should, be better.
“Amy left some pretty big shoes, but she was always available to explain the process of running a township,” Laws said. “The future of politics in America will look a little different and so will how we work with each other since the pandemic. I have found that our two party system has created a gang mentality in America.
“We are loyal to the party whether they are right or wrong. So many people are convinced to vote against their on interest just to be loyal to the party. This has voided the country of its greatest asset, love for its fellow man and the ability to think for ourselves. That’s what ‘Land Of The Free’ meant,” Laws said.
Born in Windsor, N.C. Laws was raised his Philadelphia, One brother Alan Laws is the head track coach at Pleasantville High School. Another brother, Nate Laws, coaches in the Philadelphia area. He and his wife, Lisa have four sons — Korey, Justin, Bobby Jr. and Myles, who is now a freshman at Atlantic County Institute of Technology.
Laws directed casino marketing at Bally’s Park Place for 17 years and served as executive director of casino marketing at the Sands Casino for two along with doing television advertising sales representative for Comcast Spotlight for 10 years before joining Farmers Insurance.
Beyond the ‘Fish Bowl’
Laws, who has won local awards and from Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity for his community work and leadership, said it is important to show the younger generation positive role models, much like James did for him, which is why is takes being a role model seriously.
“Negative imaging is poured into the communities of color on a daily basis,” Laws said. “I believe it is so to our kids. Your neighborhood can become your condition. It is important to show kids that there is more out there than the fish bowl they live in. The best thing to happen to me was to get out of the neighborhood I lived in so I could see how other people lived.
“I got to see more so I wanted more for myself as a young man. Now that I am older I want to provide those opportunities. Why do they bind a chain around one leg of the baby elephant but on the adult elephant there is only a rope that they don’t even bother to tie into knot? It is because the baby still believes he can break free so he keeps trying. The adult now believe it can’t get free so he doesn’t even try. That is the current state of our community,” Laws said.
Laws said he doesn’t know what the future holds for him in politics. He said he “stopped forecasting my future because I’ve learned to go where God tells me.” He said, though, whatever he does, he will define his own path.
“Never let your job, political party, your hood, your financial status or religion define who you are,” Laws said. “Let your character define you and you will always be well.”
Photos courtesy of Robert Laws
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