George Preston Marshall

Last updated
George Preston Marshall
George Preston Marshall.jpg
Marshall in 1949
Born:(1896-10-11)October 11, 1896
Grafton, West Virginia, U.S.
Died:August 9, 1969(1969-08-09) (aged 72)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Career information
Position(s) Founder and owner
College Randolph-Macon College
Career history
As coach
1925–1928 Washington Palace Five
As owner
1932–1969 Boston Braves / Washington Braves / Redskins
Career highlights and awards

George Preston Marshall (October 11, 1896 – August 9, 1969) was an American businessman who was the founder of the Washington Redskins of the National Football League (NFL). He founded the team in 1932 as the Boston Braves and was its controlling owner until his death in 1969. [1] Marshall, a supporter of racial segregation, was the last NFL owner to integrate African Americans onto a roster, only doing so in 1962 under pressure from the federal government who threatened to block the use of D.C. Stadium, which they owned, unless he did. [2]

Contents

Life and career

Marshall was born in Grafton, West Virginia, where his parents, Thomas Hildebrand ("Hill") Marshall and Blanche Preston Marshall, owned the local newspaper. [3] When he was a teenager, his family moved to Washington D.C. after his father bought a laundromat business there. [4] He attended Friends Select School, where he played baseball, and then briefly attended Randolph–Macon College before quitting school at age 18. He pursued acting and was an extra for a local theater but this pursuit was interrupted in 1918 when he was drafted into World War I, although he did not leave the country. He was discharged from the army in December 1918. Upon his father's death in 1919, he took over the 2-store laundromat business. In 1926, he financed the Washington Palace Five basketball team. [5] The team folded in 1928.

In 1932, he and three other partners were awarded an NFL franchise for Boston. The team was known as the Boston Braves, as it played on the same field as baseball's Boston Braves. After the team incurred a $46,000 loss in its first season, Marshall's partners sold their interests to him. [6]

In 1933, he moved the team from Braves Field to Fenway Park, which the team shared with the Boston Red Sox. He hired coach "Lone Star" William Henry Dietz, who claimed [7] [8] to be part Sioux and changed the team name from the Braves to the Redskins. Marshall said that he chose the name so that the team could keep its Native American logos. [9]

In 1936, the team won the Eastern division and hosted the 1936 NFL Championship Game, which Marshall moved from Boston to the Polo Grounds in New York City. After a lack of support by fans despite winning the division title, he moved the team to Washington, D.C. for the 1937 season. [5] [10]

At the time, college football was more popular than the NFL. Marshall saw the NFL as not just a sport but as a form of entertainment and incorporated elements of college football, including gala halftime shows, a marching band, and a fight song, "Hail to the Redskins".

To increase scoring, along with Chicago Bears owner George Halas, Marshall successfully suggested allowing a forward pass to be thrown from anywhere behind the line of scrimmage, rather than at a minimum of five yards behind the line. He also suggested moving the goal posts from the end line to the goal line, where they were in Canadian football, to encourage the kicking of field goals. This change remained in place for about four decades until NFL goal posts were returned to the end line in the mid-1970s as part of an effort to lessen the influence on the game of kicking specialists.

Marshall also pushed to standardize the schedule so that each team played the same number of games, the teams were split into divisions with the winners meeting in a championship game, and game gate receipts were split between the home team and the visitor using by either a 60–40 split or a guaranteed amount of money, whichever was larger. [11]

During the 1937 season, Marshall rented a train and brought 10,000 fans to New York City to watch the team play the New York Giants. [12]

In 1946, he sold the laundromat business, having grown it to 57 locations.

In the 1950s, Marshall was the first NFL owner to embrace television. He initiated the first network appearances for any NFL team and built a television network to broadcast Redskins games across the Southern United States. [13]

In 1960, Marshall opposed the addition of the Dallas Cowboys to the NFL, ending his team's stature as the only team south of the Mason–Dixon line. He only agreed to the addition after a rival acquired the rights to the fight song from the writer of the music and threatened to prohibit the team from playing it at games.

In November 1960, Marshall sold 25% of the team to Jack Kent Cooke for $350,000. Marshall was extremely frugal and did not let the team spend money on travel expenses and salaries. He once berated Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney for driving up salaries by signing University of Colorado star Byron White for $15,800, the highest contract in football in the late 1930s. One sportswriter referred to Marshall as "the last of the small-time spenders." [5]

Death

Gravestone at the interment site of George Preston Marshall at Indian Mound Cemetery in Romney, West Virginia. Indian Mound Cemetery Romney WV 2013 07 13 04.jpg
Gravestone at the interment site of George Preston Marshall at Indian Mound Cemetery in Romney, West Virginia.

In August 1962, he underwent surgery to correct a hernia. Later, he suffered a cerebral thrombosis. [3]

In 1963, soon after his induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Marshall suffered a debilitating stroke that left him legally incompetent to manage his affairs. Three conservators were assigned to manage the football team: C. Leo DeOrsey, who owned 13% of the team and Edward Bennett Williams and Milton W. King, who each owned 5% of the team. Marshall's children sued to get control of the team but lost. [3]

In August 1969, Marshall died in his sleep at his home in Georgetown from hemiphlagia, a heart condition, compounded by diabetes and arteriosclerosis. [3] [1] His funeral was held at the Washington National Cathedral with a huge crowd in attendance. Marshall is buried at the family plot in Indian Mound Cemetery in Romney, West Virginia. [14]

Racism

As a result of a "gentlemen's agreement" promoted by Marshall, NFL teams did not sign black players until 1946, when 2 teams broke the agreement. Marshall refused to do so, claiming that integrating the team would cause the team to lose fans in the Southern United States and his team was at the time the southernmost team in the NFL. [15] [16] He said that "We'll start signing Negroes when the Harlem Globetrotters start signing whites." [5]

His refusal to integrate was routinely mocked by Shirley Povich, a columnist for The Washington Post , who called him "one of pro football’s greatest innovators, and its leading bigot." [17] Marshall unsuccessfully sued Povich for $200,000 after a critical article. [18]

Marshall downplayed the issue of integration, saying "I am surprised that with the world on the brink of another war they are worried about whether or not a Negro is going to play for the Redskins" and doubted that "the government had the right to tell the showman how to cast the play." Marshall had a long-running feud with Redskins shareholder Harry Wismer, who favored integration. [5]

In 1962, United States Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall and Attorney General of the United States Robert F. Kennedy issued an ultimatum that unless Marshall signed a black player, the government would revoke the Redskins' 30-year lease on D.C. Stadium (later known as RFK Memorial Stadium), which had been paid for by government money and was owned by the city government. [19] Marshall selected Ernie Davis, Syracuse University's All-American running back, as his top draft choice in the 1962 NFL Draft. However, Davis refused to play for the team and was traded to the Cleveland Browns for All-Pro Bobby Mitchell, who became the first African American to play a game for the Redskins. [20] Marshall became an enthusiastic supporter of Mitchell. [3] The Redskins only had three winning seasons in the 23 years between the 1946 integration and Marshall's death in 1969. [18] [5] On a television show, Oscar Levant asked Marshall if he was anti-Semitic. He responded: "Oh no, I love Jews, especially when they're customers." [5]

In June 2020, a statue of Marshall was removed from the grounds of RFK Stadium after it was defaced and vandalized following the George Floyd protests. [21] The same month, his name was removed from the team's Ring of Fame at FedExField. [13]

Personal life

His obituary in The Washington Post stated: "Marshall considered it a lost opportunity were he not the center of attention". [18] [22] He feared flying and never learned to drive. [22]

In 1920, Marshall married Elizabeth Morton, a former Ziegfeld Follies girl. They had two children, Catherine and George P. Jr., separated in 1928 and divorced in 1935. [18] His mistress in the 1920s and 1930s was silent screen actress and Ziegfeld Follies dancer Louise Brooks. She gave him the nickname "Wet Wash" because he owned a laundry chain. [23] He was married to film actress-author Corinne Griffith from 1936 to 1957. [18] She referred to him in print as "The Marshall without a plan." [4]

The George Preston Marshall Foundation serves the interests of children in the Washington metropolitan area. Marshall added a caveat that no money from the foundation would ever go toward "any purpose which supports the principle of racial integration in any form"; however, this requirement was thrown out by the courts. [12]

Related Research Articles

Washington Football Team American football team based in the Washington, D.C. area

The Washington Football Team is a professional American football team based in the Washington metropolitan area. Formerly known as the Washington Redskins, the team competes in the National Football League (NFL) as a member club of the NFC East division. The team plays its home games at FedExField in Landover, Maryland, with its headquarters and training facility located in Ashburn, Virginia. The team has played more than 1,000 games and is one of only five in the NFL to record over 600 total wins. It was the first NFL franchise with an official marching band and a fight song, "Hail to the Redskins".

Details of the history of black players in professional American football depend on the professional football league considered, which includes the National Football League (NFL); the American Football League (AFL), a rival league from 1960 through 1969 which eventually merged with the NFL; and the All-America Football Conference (AAFC), which existed from 1946 to 1949.

"Hail to the Redskins" was the fight song of the Washington Redskins, an American football team belonging to the National Football League (NFL) and now known as the Washington Football Team. The song was performed after the team scored touchdowns from the 1938 season until 2019. The music was composed by the team's band leader, Barnee Breeskin, and the lyrics were written by Corinne Griffith, the wife of Washington founder and owner George Preston Marshall.

Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium Multi-purpose stadium in Washington, D.C., United States

Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium is a defunct multi-purpose stadium in Washington, D.C. It is located about two miles (3 km) due east of the U.S. Capitol building, near the west bank of the Anacostia River and next to the D.C. Armory. Opened 60 years ago in 1961, it was owned by the federal government until 1986.

Robert Cornelius Mitchell was an American professional football player who was a halfback and flanker in the National Football League (NFL) for the Cleveland Browns and the Washington Redskins. Mitchell became the Redskins' first African-American star after joining them in 1962, when they became the last NFL team to integrate. A four-time Pro Bowl selection, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983.

Cliff Battles American football player and coach

Clifford Franklin Battles was an American football halfback in the National Football League (NFL). Battles was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968.

The Cowboys–Washington rivalry is a National Football League (NFL) rivalry between the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Football Team, formerly known as the Redskins. In 2005, Sports Illustrated called it the top NFL rivalry of all time and "one of the greatest in sports." ESPN ranked it the best rivalry in the NFL. The Sportster has ranked it the 17th biggest rivalry in the world. During the tenure of this rivalry, the two franchises have won 32 combined division titles and eight combined Super Bowls. They are two of the wealthiest franchises in the NFL. The rivalry started in 1960 when the Cowboys joined the league as an expansion team. During that year they were in separate conferences, but played once during the season. In 1961, Dallas was placed in the same division as Washington, and from that point on, they have played each other twice in every regular season.

History of the Washington Football Team Sports team history

The Washington Football Team has played over 1,000 games. In those games, the club has won five professional American football championships including two NFL Championships and three Super Bowls. The franchise has also captured 15 NFL divisional titles and five NFC championships.

William Henry "Lone Star" Dietz was an American football player and coach. He served as the head football coach at Washington State University (1915–1917), Purdue University (1921), Louisiana Tech University (1922–1923), University of Wyoming (1924–1926), Haskell Institute—now known as Haskell Indian Nations University (1929–1932), and Albright College (1937–1942). From 1933 to 1934, Dietz served as the head coach for the National Football League's Boston Redskins, where he tallied a mark of 11–11–2. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as a coach in 2012.

1937 NFL Championship Game

The 1937 National Football League Championship Game was the fifth championship game of the National Football League (NFL), held December 12 at Wrigley Field in Chicago with an attendance of 15,878. The game featured the Western Division champions Chicago Bears (9–1–1) and the Eastern Division champions Washington Redskins (8–3).

Edwin Bernard Kahn was an American football guard in the National Football League (NFL) for the Boston and Washington Redskins. He played college football at the University of North Carolina.

The 1991 season was the Washington Redskins' 60th in the National Football League, their 55th representing Washington, D.C. and the eleventh under head coach Joe Gibbs.

The 1937 Washington Redskins season was the franchise's 6th season in the National Football League (NFL) and their first in Washington, D.C. The Boston Redskins moved to Washington after their runner-up 1936 season and become the Washington Redskins. In 1937 they repeated as Eastern Division champions and played the NFL championship game on the road against the Chicago Bears at Wrigley Field. The Redskins won the championship game, 28–21.

The 1936 Boston Redskins season was the franchise's 5th season in the National Football League. The team finished with a record of seven wins and five losses and finished in first place in the Eastern Division of the National Football League. They won their final three games of the regular season to win the division title, the finale was a 14–0 shutout of the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds.

The American Football League (AFL) was a professional American football league that operated in 1936 and 1937. The AFL operated in direct competition with the more established National Football League (NFL) throughout its existence. While the American media generally ignored its operation, this second AFL was the first "home" of the Cleveland Rams, which joined the National Football League after one year in the AFL.

1940 NFL Championship Game

The 1940 National Football League Championship Game, sometimes referred to simply as 73–0, was the eighth title game of the National Football League (NFL), played at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C. on December 8, with a sellout capacity attendance of 36,034.

Giants–Washington rivalry National Football League rivalry

The Giants–Washington rivalry between the New York Giants and the Washington Football Team, formerly known as the Redskins, of the National Football League began in 1932 with the founding of Washington's predecessors, the Boston Braves, and is the oldest rivalry in the NFC East Division. This rivalry has seen periods of great competition such as the Giants and Redskins' competition for conference and division titles in the late 1930s, early 1940s and 1980s. Experts deem the 1980s as the most hotly contested period between these teams, as the Redskins under Joe Gibbs and the Giants under Bill Parcells competed for division titles and Super Bowls. During this span the two teams combined to win 7 NFC East Divisional Titles, 5 Super Bowls and competed in the 1986 NFC Championship Game with the Giants winning 17–0. This rivalry is storied and Wellington Mara, long time owner of the Giants, always said that he believed the Redskins were the Giants' truest rival.

References

  1. 1 2 "Grid figure Marshall dies at 72". Reading Eagle . Associated Press. August 10, 1969.
  2. "ESPN.com - Page2 - Civil Rights on the Gridiron". www.espn.com. Retrieved 2021-05-16.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Brady, Dave (August 10, 1969). "Football's George P. Marshall, Founder of Redskins, Dies at 72". The Washington Post .
  4. 1 2 "The Boston Redskins Play Their Last Game". New England Historical Society.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Smith, Thomas G. (March 5, 2002). "Civil Rights on the Gridiron". ESPN .
  6. "G.P.M.: George Preston Marshall" (PDF). 1984.
  7. Waggoner, Linda M. "On Trial: The R*dskins Wily Mascot: Coach William "Lone Star" Dietz" (PDF). Montana, the Magazine of Western History via National Museum of the American Indian.
  8. Leiby, Richard (November 6, 2013). "The legend of Lone Star Dietz: Redskins namesake, coach — and possible impostor?". The Washington Post .
  9. McCartney, Robert (May 28, 2014). "1933 news article refutes cherished tale that Redskins were named to honor Indian coach". The Washington Post .
  10. McGrath, John (January 10, 2006). "Redskins history lesson". The Ledger . McClatchy.
  11. Roberts, Howard (1953). "The Magnificent Marshall". The Story of Pro Football. Rand McNally. pp. 196–197. LCN 53-9336.
  12. 1 2 MCKENNA, DAVE (May 7, 2004). "Dead Man Giving". Washington City Paper .
  13. 1 2 Keim, John (June 24, 2020). "Redskins removing name of former owner George Preston Marshall from Ring of Fame". ESPN .
  14. "Funeral services for Washington's Marshall today". Spartanburg Herald-Journal . Associated Press. August 13, 1969.
  15. Vargas, Theresa (July 23, 2014). "Granddaughter of former Redskins owner George P. Marshall condemns team's name". The Washington Post .
  16. Yardley, Jonathan (September 2, 2011). "'Showdown: JFK and the Integration of the Washington Redskins,' by Thomas Smith". The Washington Post .
  17. Fortier, Sam (June 24, 2020). "Redskins to remove George Preston Marshall's name from all team material". The Washington Post .
  18. 1 2 3 4 5 Walsh, Jack (August 10, 1969). "Marshall Made the Redskins A Way of Life". The Washington Post .
  19. "A 'Showdown' That Changed Football's Racial History". NPR . September 4, 2011.
  20. "Ernie Davis' legacy lives on long after his death". National Football League . October 8, 2008.
  21. Gordon, Grant (June 19, 2020). "George Preston Marshall statue removed at RFK Stadium". National Football League .
  22. 1 2 Smith, Thomas G. (September 6, 2011). Showdown: JFK and the Integration of the Washington Redskins. Beacon Press.
  23. Paris, Barry (October 15, 1989). "LULU AND THE LAUNDRY BARON". The Washington Post .