Heard on the Hill

Take Five: Al Lawson

Florida Democrat talks about his American Basketball Association career

Florida Rep. Al Lawson played basketball for Florida A&M University. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Florida Democratic freshman Rep. Al Lawson, 68, talks about his basketball career, March Madness predictions, and his love of landscaping.

[Roll Call's March Madness Bracket]

Q: How did you start playing basketball?

A: In 10th grade is when I started playing basketball. I really played baseball until the coach stopped me walking down the hallway and said, “I want you to come see me.” I had to work hard in the sport because of the difference in playing baseball and basketball. I did quite well in high school. I had about 50 or 60 offers to college. I went to Florida A&M, played basketball there, had an outstanding career and I also ran track in college. I never ran track in high school. I probably had more medals in track than I had in basketball.

[Take Five: Pramila Jayapal]

Q: Tell me about your post-collegiate career.

A: I went to the Indiana Pacers in the [American Basketball Association] and when I got hurt, I got released. I went to the San Diego Conquistadors, at that time, in the ABA. Unfortunately, I was cut by [former San Diego coach] Wilt Chamberlain who only came to practice one day a week. I signed a contract with Atlanta and trained for about a year with Atlanta and we ended up in a contract dispute. I filed a lawsuit for a million dollars. It went about three years before the lawsuit was settled and we won the lawsuit and Atlanta offered me a chance to go back, but at the time, I had started coaching basketball at Florida State as an assistant coach. I coached there for the next six to eight years. In 1972, the highlight was that we played for the national championship against UCLA, so that was a great year.

[Take Five: Josh Gottheimer]

Q: Who do you think is going to win the national championship this year?

A: I think it’s a toss-up. I think it’s pretty evenly divided this year. When you get down to the Elite Eight, I think you can probably tell what is going to happen. I plan to have a March Madness party up here. Florida A&M has been down for the last couple of years. Their facility is named after me.

Lawson is looking forward to the Elite Eight in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Lawson is looking forward to the Elite Eight in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Q: What’s in your garden in Florida?

A: I really do [like to garden]. I have a small amount of vegetables and I think that came from growing up in the country. I like to grow tomatoes and cucumbers, carrots, lettuce, peppers, some peas. I also like to do a lot of landscaping. Landscaping is something I kind of picked up from my grandmother when I lived with her because she loves flowers and I love flowers. I tell everybody I want them to give me my flowers when I’m living. I won’t be able to see them when I’m gone. I plant a lot of flowers. I probably have over 10,000 plants in my yard.

[Take Five: Brian Mast]

Q: How do you spend your time with your grandchildren?

A: I just like to let them have fun. Maybe sit down on the floor, play with their cars, play basketball with them. Anything they like to do, I really enjoy doing it. My granddaughter is in college now. She’s a freshman at Georgia State. Normally, she stays in my back pocket. I have a three-year-old grandson.

Quick Hits:

Last book you’ve read?: I like reading the Bible.

Last movie you’ve seen?: “Gladiator.” I’ve probably seen it four or five times.Favorite song of all time?: The Delfonics’ “La-La (Means I Love You).” It was one of the songs when I met my wife, so we play it every anniversary.

Role model?: My high school coach.

Closest to in Congress?: On the Republican side, Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Fla. On the Democratic side, Reps. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., Frederica S. Wilson, D-Fla., and Dwight Evans, D-Pa.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.