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Former SOTS drum major passes away after battle with COVID-19

July 31, 2020

Dr. Robert Lawrence, a native of Lanett, was the first African American elected to serve as Drum Major of the “Sound of the South” band in 1979.  

The band that year was one of the largest in University history; in fact, a portrait of that special year is still displayed in Long Hall.  

When asked about his drum major experience, Dr. Lawrence turned the praise right back around on the band itself.  “In ’79, we brought the thunder!” he said, when interviewed for the book FANFARE: The 75-Year Legacy of the Troy University Bands.

“Bobby and I  were in competition for the drum major spot, but were the best of friends,” said former “Sound of the South” drum major Don Aplin, who served from 1980-82. “[We] spent a lot of time hanging out together. He was such a good friend to me always.

“I am totally devastated.”

Former Troy University Band Alumni president Terrance Cobb noted that this past football season was the 40th anniversary of Dr. Lawrence making history.  To honor that milestone, he was invited back to serve as the drum major of the Alumni Band last November. 

“Dr. Lawrence was the first African American drum major back in 1979, and this reunion would be the first time he was asked back to Troy University to serve as the drum major of the ‘Sound of the South’ Alumni Band. Dr. Lawrence was also serving as the band director at my high school alma mater, and my hope was to get to know him better as a friend, alumni, and colleague. I became aware of his hospitalization due to the coronavirus in June,” Cobb said. 

Dr. Lawrence made history again in the summer of 1996, when the first-ever Educational Specialist degree in music was conferred by Troy State University and awarded him by Chancellor Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr. 

Former TROY faculty member Ralph Ford was there during that time. 

“Bob and I spent a few summers together at TROY He was a warm, affable man with a strong dedication to his music, teaching, students, and friends,” said Ford. 

After earning a master’s degree in music education from Boston University, and his Ed.S at TROY, Lawrence went on to earn his doctorate in pedagogy of music from the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago.  

Dr. Lawrence was a music educator, mostly in the state of Georgia, over a career that spanned 35 years.  He announced his retirement in May and was looking forward to spending more time with his family.  

Troy University Band Alumni president Tim Sims asks all friends of the band program to please pray for Bob’s wife Mary, daughter Rylee and his entire family.