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Nelson Spencer


Lifetime Achievement Award


Nelson Spencer was introduced to rugby while a freshman at Cornell during the spring of 1958 but was lured away with the prospect of playing indoor club polo with the school's elite team. He earned a gold medal but lost out on a golden opportunity to get an earlier start on what would be a lifetime interest.

He played college and club soccer for a number of years and in the mid-60's took up cricket for something altogether different. An English teammate was also a keen rugger and devoted much of his spare time in trying to find others interested in forming a rugby club in the city. In the late fall of 1968, he called Nelson and invited him to join the newly hatched Dallas (Reds) RFC. Nelson immediately jumped in and is credited with having scored the second try (then worth three points) in the club's history. He was a charter member, officer and regular First XV player until in the late fall of 1970 decided that Dallas needed a second club and left to form Dallas Harlequins in January of 1971. The English Rugby Football Union was celebrating its centennial anniversary in 1971 and Nelson selected the name Harlequins from the original list of founding members.

In 1972 he was elected president of the Texas Rugby Football Union, a post he held until 1976. During the period he, along with his close friend and predecessor Gail Tennant, became an active participant in the formation of the Western United States Rugby Football Union and then in 1975, the United States of America Rugby Football Union. He was on hand for the Eagles' match with Australia in 1976 in Anaheim and in Chicago for the contest with France later that year. He followed the Eagles to England in 1977 and was greatly pleased to be seated next to Sir Wavell Wakefield of Kendal, the former Harlequins' Captain and former President of the Rugby Football Union at the Eagles - England match at Twickenham.

During the late '70s and early '80s Nelson became increasingly involved in the leadership of the Western RFU. He was elected Secretary and later President. He was appointed by the West to the Board of the USARFU in 1980. In 1982 he chaired the Western RFU's hosting of An England XV on their six match tour of North America. This was his first meeting with England's skipper and scrum-half Nigel Melville. Also in that year he was appointed Chairman of the USA Rugby Football Club, a device for raising funds for the Eagles' 1983 Tour to Australia. For his work on this campaign Nelson was awarded the USARFU President's Award in June of 1983. After a brief hiatus Nelson was re-appointed to the USARFU Board in 1994. He earned a USARFU Level I Coaching Certificate in 1995 and a Level II Certificate in 1997.

Starting in the mid-70s Nelson enjoyed involvement in Over-30s rugby. He was a co-founder of Wildebeestes, Old Hat and The Texas XXXs RFCs. He was a member of Dale Toohey's 1979 Bald Eagles Tour to New Zealand and participated in the first Air New Zealand Golden Oldies Festival in Auckland. Subsequently he has joined the Texas XXXs at Golden Oldie events in Long Beach, London, Vancouver, Toulouse and San Diego. He has also been a guest player for the (London) Harlequins Gentlemen and for Dallas Harlequins on their Cayman Island Tour.  He is an Honorary Vice-President of London Welsh and of Rosslyn Park and a member of the Dallas RFC Hall of Fame.

Nelson has also been involved in rowing (sculling) and was a founder of the Dallas Rowing Club and served as a board member and was recently elected an Emeritus Member. He is also a devoted runner having competed in Marathons from Vancouver to Philadelphia and is a consistent age-group medalist in Dallas 5 and 10K races.

He married Brenda in 1981 and together they have two beautiful and talented daughters.