Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Much More Than "Shalom And Amen"
Something that first attracted me to NASCAR were the personalities involved in the sport. In the beginning, I was drawn to drivers like Richard Petty, David Pearson and Cale Yarborough. Eventually, my circle of interest widened to the colorful cast of characters in the sport who never took the wheel.
One of these characters became the subject of a well-researched book that has recently been published. Here is a brief description of the book that chronicles one of the most interesting men in NASCAR to never turn a lap:
Shalom and Amen is the life story of Reverend Hal Marchman (1919 - 2009). He was a Baptist minister who for over 40 years was widely known as the chaplain of NASCAR. His ministry included the Daytona International Speedway, but extended far beyond the oval.
It was 1959 when Marchman's friend and NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. asked him to deliver the invocation before the Daytona 500. While Marchman stayed in that role until 2005, there is much more to his legacy away from the track.
Marchman established church programs and community treatment centers for alcoholics and drug addicts. As a self-described "drunk in recovery" he "walked the talk" for nearly six decades. His ongoing healing legacy is represented in the Stewart-Marchman Treatment Centers in the Daytona Beach area. For over 35 years, the Stewart-Marchman programs and Marchman's direct counsel have helped thousands of alcoholics and addicts to recover a "clean and sober" life.
I recently communicated with Lamont W. Ingalls, the author of the book. It was quickly apparent how deeply affected he had been by working directly with Marchman prior to his recent passing. Here are some words from Ingalls for TDP readers:
I was blessed to spend many hours following Hal on his rounds through AA meetings, NASCAR tracks and the healing centers of Daytona Beach. I interviewed both Hal and his wife Mary over the course of 18 months at their apartment and have many pages of transcripts with this remarkable couple.
I also interviewed all of his family members, NASCAR personalities (including the late Bill France Jr.) and many other people who were helped by Hal in a personal crisis, including their struggles with sobriety.
In addition to the interviews, I visited Hal's home communities of Veazey and Greensboro, Georgia and was given an extensive tour of "Hal sites" by his youngest brother, Ray.
Hal truly had a unique spirit, and being able to work closely with him on his biography was a great gift to this writer.
While the focus of the media over the last several years has become the drivers, the depth of the personalities involved all over the sport is amazing. Marchman is just one in a long line of men who were involved with NASCAR before the big money, national exposure and the TV limelight.
The Marchman story is the kind of content that would lend itself to a TV movie or an episode of a historic NASCAR TV program. Marchman is also the kind of special character who somehow deserves recognition when this year's Sprint Cup Series banquet rolls around.
Since his passing, there have been a diverse group of representatives from many religions who have been asked to deliver the traditional invocation. While each of them has performed the task, few have the racing legacy and NASCAR connections of the late Rev. Marchman.
For many of us, it just wasn't the Daytona 500 and the start of the season without Marchman's now famous all-inclusive words of "Shalom and Amen."
The book is available online through vendors like Amazon or Barnes and Noble. It's a paperback so it will not put a hole in your wallet. It's just a good opportunity to read about someone who spent his life helping others and happened to have a big impact on the NASCAR community and many fans along the way.
Thanks for letting me deviate from our normal TV and electronic media topics. TDP will return to the TV beat tomorrow with updates on ESPN's split weekend, SPEED's return to the trucks and the struggles of NASCAR Race Hub.
If you would like to offer a comment or recollection of Rev. Marchman, please feel free to do so. Just click the comments button below. This is a family-friendly website, please keep that in mind when posting. Thank you.