Hugh A. “Tony” Lawrence was born on October 19, 1947 at Methodist Hospital in Dallas, Texas to parents Jessie Muriel (Borah) Lawrence and Charles "Hill" Lawrence. He passed away on December 20, 2020 in Fort Worth, Texas after a brief illness.
Tony spent his early years growing up at Lake Texoma and going to school in Pottsboro, later moving to Paris, Texas. He attended Paris High School where he played the drums and was the drum major for the PHS band under the direction of his beloved mentor, Floyd Weger. Tony graduated in 1966 and then attended East Texas State University, now Texas A & M Commerce. He became interested in radio at a very early age and loved spending time watching, learning from and talking with the disc jockeys at KPLT, the local radio station in Paris, Texas. In later years, Tony would tell the story about how, after deciding to stay home “sick” from high school one day in November 1963, he was instead hanging out at KPLT when the radio announcer who was working, decided to leave and go do something else for a few hours leaving Tony alone with the instructions “just stay here, make sure to keep the records playing and don’t break anything.” He recalled that soon after being left alone, the news teletype machine started printing out urgent bulletins stating that President John F. Kennedy had just been assassinated in downtown Dallas. Being the only person at the station, Tony knew he had to go on the air and announce this news to the public. This is apparently how the people of Paris and the surrounding areas found out about this tragic and historical event...and also how his principal, teachers and classmates, after hearing him on the radio, found out that he wasn’t exactly “sick” at home as he had claimed.
Tony went on to work in radio and television for the next 30+ years, both as a radio announcer/deejay for KPLT, KLTV, WFAA, WRR, KPBC, KPLX, KRLD and as General Manager of a State broadcast network. Even after going into the management part of broadcasting, he still continued to work part time as a DJ throughout the 1990’s. In addition to his career in radio, Tony also worked as a reserve officer for the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department during the 1970’s and 1980’s. It was here that he made some of his very best friends. During his long broadcasting career, Tony was also hired by several companies (including Sears and McDonald's) to record and be the “voice” of their radio and television jingles and commercials. His kids and their friends thought it was so much fun to hear him on the radio and he was always considered to be the cool dad. Whenever Tony would hear a song, regardless of where he was, he could tell you the name of the song, artist/band, year it was released, exactly how long the song was in minutes and seconds, the recording label/company that released it and whether it was the A or B side of the record. All from memory. He wasn’t someone you wanted to play music trivia with, that is, if you ever wanted to win. Even in later years, Tony enjoyed going to lunches and get-togethers with other former and retired radio announcers and personalities where they would talk and reminisce about everything related to radio, their careers, great stories and “the good old days of radio.”
Tony loved God, fire trucks, trains, all animals (especially his first Boston Terrier, Katy Jo and then most recently, Dolly Jean), Ray Charles, Charley Pride, Neil Diamond, Sherlock Holmes, Alfred Hitchcock, good chili, iced-tea, annual family reunions, Tabasco sauce, cigars, lighthouses, old ships, the harvest moon, thunderstorms, putting copious amounts of crushed black pepper on seemingly everything he ate, vanilla-scented candles and anything history-related. Tony was particularly fond of and very knowledgeable about local (Dallas-Fort Worth) and Texas History and was extremely proud of being a fifth-generation Texan. His favorite place in the world was Big Bend National Park and he went there many times throughout the years, the last time being in 2012. Tony often said he wished he could go back but he never made it. He loved everything about it, the people, the vast land and clear, open skies, the bright stars and the smell of the air there as well as the surrounding towns of Marfa, Lajitas, Terilingua, Alpine and Fort Davis.
Tony had many interesting experiences throughout his life and would always fondly recall the many fun things he would do as a boy in Mesquite, Texas especially with his paternal grandfather and namesake, Hugh Walker Lawrence, a man he truly idolized and absolutely loved. Out of all of the things he had done and experienced in his life, Tony was most proud of his three children, Kimberly, Kelly and Kyle, their spouses and of teaching his granddaughter, Taylor how to swim. He always instilled in his kids the value of hard work and doing what is right. Most importantly, the importance of always treating everyone with the same respect and kindness, whether they were the CEO of a company, a doctor, a homeless person on the street or the garbage collector. It didn’t matter as they/we were all equal. When out to eat at restaurants, he always made a point of addressing the servers by name, thanking them for everything and when leaving, he would often stop by the kitchen area to tell the cooks and/or manager “thank you” and how wonderful everything had been.
Tony was incredibly smart and extremely funny with a quick wit, had a wonderful sense of humor and was a great storyteller. When he was younger, he was also known as a jokester and prankster, especially with his two brothers, Charles and David. Tony was loved by many and had a big, generous, giving heart. He had many acquaintances and a few very good, lifelong friends. Tony will be missed by everyone who knew him, especially his family. The world will definitely be a much less interesting and not as funny place with him no longer in it.
Tony was preceded in death by his father, Hill; mother, Jessie; and brother, Charles "Charlie" Howell, who he always missed so much and will now be reunited with.
Tony is survived by his three children, daughter, Kimberly Ann (Lawrence) Bowen and son-in-law, Jose; son, Kelly Hugh and daughter in law, Jean; his youngest son, Kyle Anthony, and daughter in law, Leslie; and his beloved granddaughter, Taylor Elaine Lawrence as well as his brother, David Lawrence; sister in law, Tammie; nephew, Kenneth and niece, Kristie along with other extended family members.
His favorite poem was “The Kings Ring” by Theodore Tilton (1835-1907)
“Once in Persia reigned a King,
Who upon his signet ring
Graved a maxim true and wise,
Which, if held before his eyes,
Gave him counsel, at a glance,
Fit for every change or chance:
Solemn words, and these are they:
'Even this shall pass away.”
In lieu of a public funeral or memorial service, his children have decided to take his remains on one last trip to Big Bend National Park where they will have a small, private memorial for him.
Any gifts in remembrance of Tony can be made to the Big Bend Conservancy in memory of Tony Lawrence, online at https://bigbendfriends.org/support or phone (432) 207-2202 or Boston Terrier Rescue of North Texas, online at http://www.texasbostons.com/site/page/donate/ or BTRNT, PO Box 867376, Plano, Texas 75086. Phone (844) 428-7776.
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Big Bend Conservancy
PO Box 200, Big Bend National Park TX 79834
Boston Terrier Rescue of North Texas
PO Box 867376, Plano TX 75086