Throwback Thursday: Don Lash – More Than an Athlete

Willennar Genealogy Center’s collection is full of Throwback Thursday potential, so let’s get our #TBT on!

Athlete. Olympian. Record-breaker.

These are all words that could be used to describe Auburn High School graduate Donald Ray Lash, and for good reason. Lash was known for his skill as a runner from a young age, performed excellently in high school and college, competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, won the James E. Sullivan award, and set several records in his athletic career.

But there’s so much more to his story than running.

Don and Margaret Lash

Margaret and Don

In 1938, the same year he won the Sullivan award, Lash married Margaret Mendenhall, whom he’d met at Indiana University. According to his biography, The Iron Man from Indiana, he had her wedding band made using diamonds from three medals he’d won in the Chicago Relays. They had three children together: Russell, David, and Marguerite.

For a time he still pursued running, working on the Indiana State Police force at the same time. After three years, Lash’s IU coach, Billy Hayes, suggested he apply for the F.B.I., so he did, and was accepted.

Don Lash - FBI

(Left to right: Reasner, Waggoner, Lash)

Lash’s 21 years with the F.B.I. took their family all over the United States. They spent time in Atlanta, GA; Louisville, KY; Detroit MI; Dallas and Abilene, TX; Birmingham, AL; and Indianapolis and Lafayette, IN.

His assignments varied. Earlier on in his career, the focus was mainly on German espionage during WWII. While in Atlanta, Lash and another man were to search the room of a known German spy, leaving the room itself untouched—but Lash broke protocol and took a small notebook filled with what appeared to be contact information.

His superiors were furious with him, but they photographed the pages before having Lash secretly return the book. The information inside turned out to be the names and addresses of many other German spies in the country.

State Rep. Don Lash

Representative Lash

In 1963, Lash retired from the F.B.I., and ten years later, was elected as an Indiana State Representative, a position he served in for 5 terms.

He didn’t stop there, either. With the help of his family, he opened Camp Wapello, a Christian youth camp near Marshall, Indiana. He also opened his own realtor office, served as a trustee at Indiana University, and was awarded the prestigious “Sagamore of the Wabash” award by Indiana Gov. Otis T. Bowen.

Want to see more? Feel free to search our online photo database, or head on over to the Genealogy Center’s official Facebook page.


About Chelsea

I've been working at Willennar Genealogy Center for over two years now, and I've loved every minute of getting to learn more about the stories of DeKalb County and the surrounding area. I'm interested in all kinds of history, but I'm especially fond of the early film industry, old letters and journals, the DeKalb County Fair, and the Interurban line.
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