At a time when Washington and Lee's athletic program desperately needed something positive along came Lee M. McLaughlin.
McLaughlin arrived at W&L as the football coach in the fall of 1957, just three years after the University's decision to abolish subsidized athletics. McLaughlin first gained fame as a star athlete at the University of Virginia.
He captained both the football and track teams at UVa and earned third team All-America honors in football in 1940. He then played for the Green Bay Packers in 1941 before going into World War II. McLaughlin then began a successful coaching career at the Episcopal School where he amassed a record of 52-21-7 before taking over as W&L's football coach.
After three trying years McLaughlin guided the Generals' football program to an undefeated season in 1960 and then a mythical small college national championship in 1961 when the Washington D.C., Touchdown Club awarded the Generals the Timmie Trophy as the Outstanding Small College team in the nation.
McLaughlin guided the Generals to 48 victories in 11 seasons and a College Athletic Conference championship in 1962, but more importantly instilled life into W&L's new non-scholarship athletic program.
He said, "What we take out of it is the professionalism, the spectacle for the crowd's sake alone. Our boys are playing for the school and for themselves, and that's the way it should be."
McLaughlin led the Generals to a winning record in his final season as head coach, but died in a tragic accident at his summer camp for boys in Rockbridge County just prior to the start of the 1968 football season.
W&L President Robert E.R. Huntley eloquently described the University's loss: "He was a part of the heart and soul of Washington and Lee, and his death leaves a void which cannot be filled. But he brought to this institution a vitality and a spirit which will never die."