Student Takes Turn in PBS Spotlight

Viewers of last Monday’s installment of the PBS series “Fanatical Ancestors” were treated to a dose of U-32 family history, courtesy of Junior Cooper Lamb.    

“I was doing some research on and saw the ‘fanatical’ tab,” Cooper said. “And there they were, the Albert Van Leach family. At least six of them were fanatics, all in the same family – I knew I had a chance to get on that PBS show.” 
Lamb read into the files, discovered a treasure trove of fanatical behavior in his lineage, and submitted his notes to  PBS, where the research was converted into a two-minute animated powerpoint presentation with background music, which ultimately broadcast live before a studio audience as part of a pledge drive at the PBS headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.

The PBS  segment requires a subscription, but here are the highlights:

Wayne Van Leach, far right.  Fanatical physicist.  His experiments with two-dimensional space led to his untimely disappearance.  

John Raymond Van Leach, tallest in the back.  The great-great-grandfather of Mama Van Leach.  Fanatical abolitionist.  Fought slavery in 1790’s Haiti and 1850’s Kansas, then moved to Portland, Oregon, where he opened a politically-correct movie theater.  Recently bought an adjoining building and opened a comics shop with regular gaming events.  

Cecil Van Roebuck ‘C.V.R.’ Van Leach, second from left.  Fanatical education reformer with the U.S. military.  In 1884 he created the first SBAC exam in North Dakota, as part of a Native American deculturation program.

Lillian ‘Lil’ Muffin’ Van Leach, Center, in light-colored dress.   Fanatical weight lifter.  Carried her parents everywhere she went on two chairs suspended from an iron bar.   Never spoke, expressed everything with her eyes.    

Albert ‘Pa’ Van Leach, front right.  Fanatical surgeon. Performed thousands of amputations in  23 states before going underground to continue his practice.

Mistletoe ‘Mama’ Van Leach, front left.  Fanatical dog trainer.  Used hypnotic powers to subdue hounds for wealthy clients, then retired to focus on her family.

The “Van Leach Boys,” far left, third from left in the back row, and second from right.  Not fanatical.  Strongly committed to several causes but maintained life balance, coupled with regular exercise and healthy diet. Bank robbers.    


For all the family resemblance, Lamb laughs off suggestions that fanaticism runs in the blood.  

“I might look like them, and I’m passionate about some things, like genealogy and educational television,” Lamb admitted, with a forced chuckle.  “But my genes don’t define me – I know where to draw the line.”




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