Carlton Ray “Big C” Lamm

Carlton Ray “Big C” Lamm

Nash County, North Carolina, USA
Death 16 Apr 2018 (aged 77)
Johnston County, North Carolina, USA
Burial Dunn, Harnett County, North Carolina, USA
Memorial ID 188982749 · View Source
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The following is a blog post published by Parker at that is a beautiful summation of who Carlton was and the lasting impression he left on not only the auto racing community but on anyone that had the fortune of having meet this great man.

Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die. I’ve been putting off this writing for too long now. It’s one of those actions you shun from taking because you sense its mere completion symbolizes the book closing, when in reality it’s a step forward in the grieving process. Yet this post—this is a tribute, an uncovering really, of how a man in rural North Carolina impacted countless lives, and changed mine. Though his life was cut 20 years short, his influence and wisdom lives well beyond his passing. I hope the lessons shared—learned from years of friendship with Mr. Carlton Lamm—can carryover into your days, because this Ford-sellin’, Cracker-Barrel-lovin’, dirt-track-racin’ block of a man, is simply, the legend.

Carlton “Big C” Lamm could’ve sold a ketchup-flavored popsicle to a woman in white gloves. Born in Wilson, North Carolina in 1941, he spent 77 years on this earth, before joining his brother & parents in heaven in April of 2018 due to stroke complications. Early on, Carlton grew up poor & never went to college (whenever someone asked where he went, he’d clear his throat and reply, “hard knocks”.) After high school, upon seeing the demand for trucks and cattle in this rural part of North Carolina—and the healthy margins common to both—Carlton began a multithreaded career in autos & livestock. By the time I’d met him 3 years ago as a fresh-college-grad-turned-Ford-employee, “Mr. Lamm” was the proud owner of Dunn Benson Ford, Carlton Cattle Company, and his greatest escape—Dunn Benson Motorsports.

Mr. Lamm and I clicked like a seatbelt. Our bond began as I was the broker between his dealership & Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, selling Dunn Benson Ford their inventory-line from the manufacturer. Periodic visits & phone calls to discuss Mustang & F-150 needs burgeoned into a blessed friendship, as Mr. Lamm warmly invited me to spend more and more time with his first-class family. Fast forward to April 2018 and I found myself sleeping in “Big C’s” room during his final days at REX Hospital in Raleigh. It was in that cramped room that Carlton Lamm became a guardian angel to myself and so many others.

Carlton’s death was obviously the end in the most physical, literal way, but also the beginning. It was the beginning of his legacy, his patrimony, the start of this ‘reflection-education’ for hundreds of people who realized they’d never meet another man of his caliber. I remember sitting in the ICU room—Carlton hooked up to more machines than I could count with wires going every which way—and watching his son Kemp try to weather the constant flurry of visitors & phone calls. Whether it was friends from the farming business, dealership, or racing, whether the person knew Carlton in 2018 or 1968, it was obvious that though his body was dying, his impact was surviving. You see, Carlton respected the janitor at his dealership as much as the top grossing salespeople. He respected the tire manager of the back-of-the-pack race team as much as the owners of the champion contenders, and that universal sense of high opinion was reflective. In the tight-knit world of auto racing, when well-wishes and condolences come in from names like Yates, Petty, Roush, Labonte, and Almirola, that means you probably rubbed elbows with some celebrated and prominent folks, but to Carlton, a customer who’d bought a used Fiesta from him that year was no different.

We have a saying in racing that if you want to make a small fortune in the sport, start with a large one then work your way down. And it was during my years of joining Carlton at these races where I learned his approach towards competition; an attitude surprisingly bathed in kindness and generosity despite the financial entanglements. Let me paint a picture – the racing Carlton was involved in for so many decades as a team owner is called Late Model dirt racing (the dirt is for racing and asphalt is for getting there). There’s about 20 full-time teams and they each field a car in the series. Oval tracks are in rural parts of the south & Midwest; far from major cities in most-cases (and down gravel roads). The season runs from February through October with races nearly every weekend; purses (winnings) range from $5,000 to $100,000 for 1st place. To put it plainly, it’s the type of racing where on Saturday a driver might be saying “This is fun! We’re so fast!”, then on Sunday the car is “stupid”, the driver is “done” and hates the sport, and on Monday morning he can’t wait to get the car fixed so they can race again next Saturday. We call this the multiple personalities of racing. I say all that in an attempt to imprint dollar signs in your eyes; auto-racing is expensive, and most teams operate at an annual loss. But Carlton, despite the unrelenting competition, approached other teams with a servant’s heart, week in and week out. Every race I can remember, we’d get in his golf cart and go hauler by hauler, team by team, so Carlton could tell every crew that “If y’all need anything…parts or anything like that…you know where to find me, here to help”. The first time I heard him say that I about dropped my hot-dog. But that’s the man Carlton was…mission over money. He put people over profits and taught me that friendship wins out in the end; that no matter the struggles or situation you find yourself in, being positive in any situation isn’t naïve, it’s leadership.

Carlton lived his life so the preacher didn’t have to lie at his funeral. And if you think about it, that’s a pretty good mantra to live by. He taught me so much about how to treat people; how to approach each day with a sense of purpose over popularity, and truth be told, Carlton taught me what being a man really is. He’d commonly throw wisdom my way, saying things like, “you’ll never see a U-Haul behind a Hearse”. For a while I didn’t grasp this idea, but what Carlton was implying was that as much money and just things—any material items really—that we gather up, you can’t take it with you. He was instilling in me this idea that our knowledge, skills, possessions…their accumulation is not near as important as their reach. You see Carlton was all about impact over impression, and he really lived this out. Whether it was through sponsorships, donations, or day-to-day interactions with his employees, friends, customers, and even strangers, this was a man always looking to be in a position to help others; uninterested in his impression and more focused on his impact. When you think about it, that attitude is pretty counter to the way a sizable chunk of our society operates today…more wrapped up in impressing strangers for Likes on Instagram and Facebook. Carlton was different; he taught me that the world is changed by your example, not your opinion.

People pray for cake. When God gives them batter, eggs, oil, icing, a pan and an oven, they get frustrated and leave the kitchen. I’m talking about effort, and there was no man who put in more blood, sweat, and tears than Carlton to reach his goals and provide for his family. He taught me to prepare while others daydreamed, to work while others wished, listen while others talked, and most importantly, persist while others quit. He knew that in this ever-changing world we live in, you can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf. Carlton also knew he wasn’t alone, that his family, friends, and business partners would run through a wall for him. Why? Because people inherently respect effort, and the more you show, the more help you’ll receive. Think about it, people drive by a person in a dead car and do nothing, but see a person pushing and get out to help. Over the course of Carlton Lamm’s life, he’d made such consistent investments in his relationship with God, community, friends and foes alike, that over time he’d built up this army-like support system and he could accomplish anything. Looking back, I would’ve done anything for Carlton during our friendship—not because he was in any way my boss or superior—but because he always made sure to remind me that if I needed anything from him, to “just call’.

I want to end with a challenge to anyone fortunate enough to have met Carlton during his lifetime; it’s something I’ve held onto since Carlton’s passing. Whenever you’re faced with a tough decision, ask yourself, What Would Carlton Do? WWCD is part of Carlton’s legacy; it’s his daily impact living on and being put to work through the actions of those he left behind. For a few forks in the road I’ve been faced with since his death, I ask Carlton to point me in the right direction, and so far he’s done pretty well. Big C taught me that when you sort out all the noise, all that really matters is that the people you love are happy and healthy…everything else is just sprinkles on the sundae. You see, we live in a world where a bulk of our confusion in life is a result of our willingness to put up with BS. I’ve watched friends make permanent decisions on temporary feelings. I’ve seen uncoachable kids on my high school sports teams become unemployable adults. I’ve seen coworkers lose big jobs because of split-second stupid decisions. I know too many people that buy things they don’t need with money they don’t really have to impress followers online, i.e. people they don’t really know. My point is, it was people like Carlton who knew that the world gets really quiet when you’re in tune with yourself, and wisdom from his generation is simply undervalued. Carlton Lamm was a local man with a national reach, and I miss him every day. Truth be told, if I could have dinner with anyone dead or alive tonight, I’d chose ‘Big C’…and you already know he’d wanna go to the Cracker Barrel.

Down here in Texas, we like to say there’s 3 types of fish: “this big”, “THIS BIG”, and “the one that got away”. Well, Carlton is the one that got away, but at least some of us got hooked up with him at some point, so he’ll forever be, the legend.

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  • Created by: SRM1210
  • Added: 19 Apr 2018
  • Find a Grave Memorial 188982749
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Carlton Ray “Big C” Lamm (3 Apr 1941–16 Apr 2018), Find a Grave Memorial no. 188982749, citing Greenwood Cemetery, Dunn, Harnett County, North Carolina, USA ; Maintained by SRM1210 (contributor 47287351) .