Feeling a tie to the South, Marshall has changed a line so the song now goes, "Fight for old Dixie" instead of "D.C." Miss Griffith also wrote a book, My Life with the Redskins
, which a library in Los Angeles filed under the heading. Racial. Although Miss Griffith has since divorced Marshall, he feels a deep attachment to both her song and the book. He presents a copy of each to every Redskin rookie. A couple of years ago he was most distressed when Breeskin, following a quarrel, sold his interest in the song to Clint Murchison Jr., the Texas millionaire. Although Marshall opposed expansion of the NFL, he agreed to back Murchison's Dallas team for admission in exchange for rights to the music.
For 11 years, from 1936 to 1946, the Redskins prospered both in the standings and at the gate as Quarterback Sammy Baugh led them to two world championships. Before Baugh retired, the Redskins had already begun to slip. Critics faulted Marshall on two counts, for failing to hire Negro players and for being 10th to spend money to find talented players of any color. An ex-Redskin says, "When you begin to reach a higher salary, you're traded." Bergman recalls the time he asked Marshall to ship the team to the Westchester Country Club for practice before a playoff with the Giants. "How much will it cost?" asked Marshall. "About $3,000," said Bergman. "Are you sure you're going to win?" Marshall asked. "Yes," said Bergman. "Go," said Marshall. At a luncheon in Baltimore, Buzz Nutter, a Colt center, kiddingly accused the Redskins of making him hitchhike home after he was cut from the team. Irate, Marshall rushed to the podium, brush-blocked Nutter out of the way and denounced him as a liar.
Marshall has feuded with Washington columnist Shirley Povich ever since a train trip home after a rough game with the Bears in 1938. "I was sitting in my room, doping out ideas for a column, when Marshall burst in the door," Povich recalled. "He was waving a check over his head and he literally screamed that the game had resulted in the Skins leaving Chicago with the greatest cut of receipts ever taken out of the city by a football team, college or pro. Next morning, after we'd pulled out of Pittsburgh, I started walking through the Pullmans to talk with a couple of players about the game. I knew they'd be pretty stiff and sore and a little surly, but I thought the night's sleep and a good breakfast might have softened them up. They weren't in the Pullmans. At Pittsburgh, Marshall had shifted them back to the day coaches for the rest of the trip to Washington. Why pay Pullman all the way? All right, so that's good business sense. But I just couldn't see the move, especially after the Skins' most profitable game to date. I wrote it up for my column. Marshall hit the ceiling and hasn't been down from it since."
A knack for controversy
Marshall started calling Povich "that fifth columnist," and he sent him wires commenting on his lack of journalistic ability. In the past, Marshall's knack for controversy has ranged afar. When the Redskins played an exhibition in Winston-Salem, N.C. local officials took Marshall on a tour of the city. Shown the R. J. Reynolds tobacco factories, he scoffed at Winston-Salem as a "one-corporation city." At the airport he derided flying and at an underwear plant he remarked, "I haven't woman undershirt in 25 years. Only wear shorts. Guess I cut your business in half." Even Oscar Levant met his match in Marshall. When Marshall appeared on his TV show, Levant said, "I hear you're anti-Semitic." Marshall answered, "Oh, no, I love Jews, especially when they're customers." An uproar followed. Wismer flew to Hollywood to announce he was "shocked, but not terribly surprised." Levant was contrite. "I'm sorry about this," he said. "I shouldn't have done it. Variety raised hell with me. Marshall kept saying how ugly I was—right there on the show. He said, 'What an ugly fellow you are, Oscar.' "
Asked about the contretemps, Marshall says, "If I'm doing a show that's supposed to be amusing and entertaining, and if Levant asks me a facetious question, I'll give an amusing answer. The audience laughed like hell. No one of intelligence has ever questioned my theories on race or religion. Ah is an independent boy!"
Someone of intelligence recently did question Marshall's theories on race. Secretary of the Interior Stewart L. Udall, noting the lack of a Negro on the Redskins, wrote Marshall last spring that he was aware of "persistent allegations that your company practices discrimination in the hiring of its players," and that unless Marshall changed his policy he was going to have trouble. The new stadium is built on land owned by the Federal Government, and a regulation specifically forbids discrimination. If Marshall tried to back out of the 30-year contract he would face a suit. If he failed to adhere to the regulation, he would face prosecution. "I didn't know the Government had the right to tell a showman how to cast the play," Marshall said. "I would consider it a great honor to meet and discuss this with the President of the United States. Yes, I'd like to debate that kid. I could handle him with words. I used to handle the old man ( Joseph P. Kennedy] in Boston."
Despite the bluster, Marshall wrote League Commissioner Pete Rozelle that he was interested in drafting good Negro players. Some of Marshall's friends rallied to his side. For one, Edward Bennett Williams, the lawyer, is convinced Marshall is no bigot. Marshall, Williams says, just doesn't like it very much being pushed around. He might have hired a Negro before if the press hadn't carried the fight to him.
In an interview the other day, Marshall seemed strangely subdued, for Marshall. "I'm now only interested in one subject," he said, "getting the Redskins back to what they were—winners." He denied there was any "new" Marshall. "I'm not any different than I ever was," he said. " ' Marshall's not as wild as he used to be.' Well, hell, Marshall was never wild." He appeared to have had his fill of controversy, at least temporarily. "I sure have been accused of being anti-everything," he said. "Anti-Jewish, anti-Catholic. Oh, I don't know. Maybe I'm just anti-people."