In 1951, 19-year-old Jack Chamblin faced a no-win situation.
The West Point cadet and varsity football player was caught up in a cheating scandal. He had done nothing wrong, but he had been aware of the events and had discussed them with other cadets.
Now, the brass wanted him to name those cadets. He could live up to the academy's honor code - which demanded a cadet not tolerate cheating - or his own code - which told him it was wrong to implicate other innocent cadets.
Chamblin took the Fifth and was among 90 cadets - including Army's entire varsity football team - dismissed from West Point.
That life-changing event is just one tale from Illinois Iron Man, a new book on the life of Robinson civic and business leader Jack Chamblin by his cousin, Tony Chamblin.
An award-winning writer and editor who has contributed to Sports Illustrated and Newsweek, Tony Chamblin will be at the Heath Confectionery in Robinson for a book signing from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. The book is also available in both hard cover and paperback from Amazon.com.
In his preface, the author explained why he wrote his cousin's biography. "It needed writing because Jack deserves to be remembered," he wrote. "His life should not be lost to time or fading memories."
Chamblin landed on his feet after leaving West Point. The University of Illinois had wanted him before he signed with the academy and the football coach there made it clear he was still welcome. The NCAA, however, penalized him for the West Point dismissal by banning him from playing for two years.
Once he was back in the game, he earned second-team All-Big Ten and academic All-Big Ten honors and was named the Illini's MVP his senior year. He earned a masters degree in geology, then served two years in the U.S. Air Force, having soured on the Army.
Chamblin's love of sports, from football to golf to horse racing, is an important part of the book, as is his love of hunting.
One memorable anecdote tells of an ill-fated hunting trip when Larry Lewis, late publisher of the Daily News, missed his prey but peppered Chamblin with birdshot. Lewis was aghast, but Chamblin took it in stride. The 82-year-old carries some of the pellets in his posterior to this day.
While Chamblin is the focus of the book, it also includes details on his family, friends, business ventures, charity work and more.
Prominent in the book are Bradford Supply Co., Quail Creek Country Club and Chamblin's long-time friend, the late Dick Heath.
Founded in Bradford, Pa., in 1907, Bradford Supply had fallen on hard times by the early 1960s when Chamblin's father acquired it. Chamblin returned to Robinson to join his father in the business in 1962, and with Heath's assistance, secured the funding necessary to keep it going.
Chamblin took over as chairman of the board in 1988 and started turning control over to his sons in 2011. He had been offer millions of dollars for Bradford, but wanted it to stay in the family so his father's legacy would live on.
Although he turned Bradford around, Chamblin down played his achievements. "I was just a pig-iron salesman," he told his cousin. "Buying and selling products is not very creative."
That feeling didn't stymie his other economic development efforts, though. As one of the founders of CRAW-PAC, Chamblin played a pivotal role in bringing the Robinson Correctional Center here, helped iron out a sewer dispute between the City of Robinson and Leaf Inc., secured funding for Lincoln Trail College and hosted fund raisers for Gov. Jim Thompson.
He also contributed to charitable organizations, helped the U of I athletic fund, founded the Merle Crosby Scholarship in honor of his Robinson High School football coach and helped with the Palestine City Rodeo.
Chamblin's efforts for Quail Creek are detailed in the book, including his involvement with the PGA tournament Heath started in the late '60s and his later six consecutive terms and club president.
Chamblin has generally avoided publicity for his community services, although he has been honored for them several times.
Also, he hopes people will think well of his efforts after he is gone.
Asked how he wants to be remembered, he said, "not famous, but not forgotten for what I have tried to do for the communities in which I have lived."
Posted: Saturday, June 07, 2014
Article comment by:
I sat down Friday night at 8:15 p.m. to begin what I foresaw as a 2 week read on the Illinois Ironman, Jack Chamblin's incredible story as written by his cousin Tony. Finally, sometime after 1:00 a.m. I had finished what is a remarkably well written and well chronicled book on Jack's life. His athletic, professional and civic passion and success is undoubtedly the best all around success story in Robinson's illustrious history. This is a must read for anyone ever associated with Crawford County or the State of Illinois... Bill Farley Norman, Oklahoma