AUSTIN (KXAN) - They started making beautiful music together more than five decades ago in the University of Texas Longhorn Band.
These days Texas natives Martha and J. Shelby Sharpe run track together. A married couple of 50 years come June, they have had a love affair with track-and-field since those early days.
As Head Marshal of the 2012 Texas Relays, Shelby Sharpe oversees the 185 track-and-field officials who have gathered in Austin to run the four-day event. With that many men and women to instruct and assign , he's a busy man, but he loves it.
After all, his connection to track-and-field events goes way back – to 1961, exactly, when he was a member of the UT team that won the Southwest Conference Championship that year.
He didn't start out as an official Longhorn track athlete. It was in those college years that Martha asked him out on their first date. He played trumpet and she played flute under the direction of Vincent DiNino , who retired from UT in 1955.
In his spare time as a student, Shelby Sharpe was involved with the UT intramural track program, when Clyde Littlefield saw his ability and asked him to join the men's college team.
"It was the spring of 1960 when Clyde Littlefield first saw me," Shelby said. "He said I ran well enough to come out for the Varsity track team, so I did. It was the next year that we won the conference championship."
An attorney by profession, while in law school, Shelby worked for a year for Chief Justice Robert W. Calvert of the Texas Supreme Court. He has made significant legal strides during his long career, including filing a class action lawsuit in 1985 on behalf of all home schooling families in Texas. His efforts led the way for the legalization of home school education in the state.
Admitted to the bar in 1965, his office is based in Fort Worth as Sharpe Tillman and Melton, P.C.
After raising three children, Martha joined Shelby on the track, and for the past 20 years she has served as a marshal right alongside her husband. In fact, during the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials, she was Head Marshal for the competition in Eugene, Ore.
Racing right after his wife, Shelby will hold the same role for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials in June.
He doesn't stop there, but has the best of both worlds, combining the practice of law with his love of sporting events, including how the two worlds work together from a legal standpoint. He revised the USA Track & Field Competition Rules in June 2010 . Sharpe is general counsel for the national meet directors organization. Also the Texas and Kansas organizations, as well as the NCAA, and the U.S. Track-and-Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
Lest you think Martha gets lost in all that shadow, oh no. She's a star in her own right, as Shelby explained.
"Ask her who was on the cover of the USA Track & Field Rule book last year," he said proudly.
Yes, it was his wife, who is grandmother of nine and great-grandmother to one.
"And she's also on the cover of this year's rule book, too."
Martha smiled. Not wanting to brag on herself was evident.
At that, the couple who walk the track at the Texas Relays turned to walk it again -- the same way they have a hundred times across the years, across the country, hand-in-hand in their relay of life.
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