J.D. Lambert named Fountain City Man of the Year

By Ken Lay

For years, J.D. Lambert was a constant presence at Central High School. The longtime teacher, girls and boys basketball coach, assistant principal and athletic director had his accomplishments recognized recently.

Lambert, who retired following the 2022-23 school year, was named Fountain City’s Man of the Year for 2023 by the Fountain City Business and Professionals Association at its annual dinner on Saturday, January 27, at Beaver Brook Country Club.

It was intended to be Lambert’s night, but the last thing he wanted to do was make the evening about him.

“We have so many people in Fountain City that support the community and support Central High School, and I may have won this award, but this award is for all of you.”

Lambert, who came to Knoxville after teaching and coaching at Morristown East, Morristown West and Jefferson County high schools, first served at Central High as its girls basketball coach. He was later the boys basketball coach, and after a short time away to work at Austin-East, Powell and Halls high schools, he returned to Central to become an administrator before his retirement.

During his career, Lambert also taught at Meadowview Middle School, Whittle Springs Middle School and Karns High School.

Once he first began working at Central High, the Kentucky native said he considered Fountain City his true home.

“I’ve been a Beaver, a Panther, a Roadrunner and a Red Devil,” he said. “I’ve been all of those things. But I’m a Bobcat and I’ll always be a Bobcat.”

Lambert definitely will continue to make his mark on Fountain City. He may be retired but he often takes to social media and posts newspaper articles about Central’s storied past and Bobcat current events.

The size of the crowd who showed up to honor him that Saturday night was certainly a testament to the positivity that Lambert has imparted to those he’s known, taught, coached and influenced during his career.

The attendees at the dinner included one-time Central cheer coach Jackie Raley, who is running for Knox County Property Assessor; former Hardin Valley Academy softball coach Whitney Hickam Cruze, a Central graduate who played basketball for Lambert and now teaches at Shannondale Elementary School; former Central principal Jon Miller; former Central football coach Nick Craney; Bobcats’ baseball coach Brandon Roberts; longtime basketball official scorer Chad Brown; longtime Central basketball manager Aaron Kilgore; and Knoxville sportswriter Steve Williams, who taught with Lambert at Whittle Springs.

During his brief remarks to the crowd, Lambert recalled meeting Brown and Kilgore, who worked in the basketball programs when they were students.

“When I came to Central, Chad Brown was keeping our book, and now who’s keeping the book?  Chad Brown,” Lambert said. “Aaron Kilgore was the basketball manager and he’s still the basketball manager… or he’s supposed to be if he’s not running for mayor of Fountain City.

“Whitney Cruze is here with her family, and she’s at Shannondale Elementary School and she goes there on Sunday afternoon and takes a leaf blower, and blows the leaves so her students can have a clean school when they come. Steve Williams is here and we taught at Whittle Springs together.”

Lambert knew that he was going to be recognized by the Fountain City BPA, but he would receive a surprise honor later in the evening, as he was recognized by his home state of Kentucky. He was named a Kentucky Colonel by Governor Andy Beshear.

“I had to come to Tennessee to be recognized as a Kentuckian,” Lambert said. “I was honored, you know that you’re getting one award and you wind up getting two.

“It was just great to have all you people there.”