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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Aggieland puts bookends on a lifelong friendship

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Photo by (c) 2016 JRUSALEM PHOTOGRAPHY

(Left) Robert Spoede and Paul Leming have been friends since meeting at A&M in the 1940s. 

They traveled the world and served as officers in the United State’s military, but for two Aggies who walked the Texas A&M campus during the WWII era, Aggieland was forever their home.

Robert Spoede and Paul Leming, Class of 1948 and 1952, respectively, formed a close friendship on a Texas A&M campus renown for its wide sweeping emptiness and its military training. One a track star, the other a sports reporter, they both connected in a manner that kept them together through globetrotting military careers. Over half a century later, they both live in the College Station area again and remain highly active in the community.

The pair’s life stories are full of adventure and the type of casual danger only military lifestyles throughout the Cold War can boast. But despite the places traveled and the sights seen, both men never stopped hoping to a return to A&M.

A friendship begins

As a child, Spoede had his eyes set on A&M. When his brother died in a plane crash in 1943 while serving in the Marines, he felt compelled to follow in his footsteps and joined the Marines.

“Number one, my family was an Aggie family, my grandfather was Class of 1881, the third entering class,” Spoede said. “Both brothers and several cousins went [to Texas A&M]. I also came to the football games when A&M was number one in the nation. I wanted to be an Aggie, period.”

Leming grew up in Arkansas and moved to Beaumont, Texas in 1945 where he finished high school. Upon graduation, his athletic and academic achievements made him a popular track recruit.

“I had offers from 56 colleges and universities,” Leming said. “I narrowed it down to [the University of Texas] and A&M, and I liked both places a lot and liked both coaches. I liked the camaraderie at A&M — I wasn’t big on social life and fraternities, so I wasn’t red-hot about t.u.”

Spoede attended A&M for one semester and enlisted in the Marines. Upon finishing his freshman year, he was called on active duty to serve 18 months in the Marines. Afterwards He returned to A&M and dedicated his time to school, the Corps of Cadets and writing for The Battalion while on campus.`

“I worked at The Battalion, and we had our Monday morning sports report for five minutes, and we laughably said, ‘Welcome to downtown College Station,’” Spoede said. “We tried to picture where downtown College Station might be and the closest we could think of was Northgate.”

Leming ran track all four years on scholarship. The duo formed a unique relationship when Leming was a freshman and Spoede was a senior. 

“When [Leming] was in high school, I found out [Leming] was the nation’s leading high hurdler in high school, a straight-A student and he was coming to A&M,” Spoede said. “He called me his personal publicity agent.”

Service across the world

After graduation in 1949, Speode commissioned in the Army and spent four years in Germany. His next assignments sent him, his wife and his three children across the world to places as varied as Texas as well as in Georgia and Germany. Speode eventually retired soon after he returned from wartime in Vietnam.

Spoede also pursued his education throughout his professional career. 

“I went to William and Mary to earn my doctorate in History in 1968,” Spoede said. “Then I returned back to College Station and spent the rest of my teaching career there for 18 to 19 years at William Jennings Bryan College. I wanted to come back to the promise land — to Aggieland.”

Leming served in the Air Force for 30 years while supporting his wife and three children. He reached the rank of Colonel and flew several airplanes including the L-19, T-39 and F-4. 

Finishing first in his pilot training class, Leming chose to fly the F94-C. His career took him through Alaska, Georgia and Texas before he left the states for Taiwan, Vietnam and Germany. Leming eventually retired after 30 years of service. 

Return to Aggieland

Leming said he and his wife were very happy in Austin, but as more people moved to the area, they decided to move to College Station.

“My wife came home one afternoon, and I asked her, ‘Honey what’s the matter?’” Leming said. “She said she was nearly sideshwacked once and rear ended twice and asked me if I want to move to College Station. I said, ‘I’d thought you’d never ask.’”

Spoede wanted to move back to College Station because of the rich patriotism and heritage in Aggieland. Spoede remains involved through supporting A&M athletics and serving in his local church. Spoede was active with the Brazos Valley Republican party, and is currently on the Board Council for Fellowship of Christian Athletes. 

Since Leming has moved back to Aggieland, he and his wife have endowed several scholarships. Leming officiated A&M track meets for 15 years, and Leming served on the predecessor of the 12th Man Foundation for 10 years.

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