When the Hawks were but a glimmer …

All lawyers have “war stories” to share. Amid the euphoria generated by the Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl win and celebration parade in downtown Seattle, a wonderful tidbit of forgotten history surfaced. We recently learned that our own Skip Li played a role – albeit a small one – in getting the Seahawks for Seattle. He’s shared the story with us, and now we share Skip’s story with you. (We also received permission from former Washington Governor Dan Evans to share the story and documents with you.) Here’s Skip’s story:

Former Washington Governor Dan Evans emailed me the day after the Hawks’ victory parade and sent me copies of three documents from 1974 buried in the State Archives. The State Archivist, a longtime political friend, found these and sent them to Dan. The former governor has been doing research for the book he is writing about his many years in state and national politics as Governor and U.S. Senator.

In 1974 I was a young lawyer working as the Governor’s legal counsel in the State Capitol in Olympia. Evans was, at the time, in his third term as Governor.

Document #1 (blue) was a memo I wrote to the Governor dated 4/10/74 informing him Gerry Grinstein (former chief of staff to Washington Senator Warren Magnuson) was asking for Dan’s help to get the National Football League to award an expansion franchise to Seattle. This was before the days of computers and even word processors. I typed it myself (obviously in a rush, considering how the typos were corrected) on my IBM Selectric sitting by my desk. The handwriting on the memo shows exchanges between the Governor and me, including references to then King County Executive John Spellman (who later would serve one term as Governor himself). Dan wanted to write the letter, but also wanted to bring Spellman in the loop. Spellman is acknowledged as the man most responsible for getting the Kingdome built and finished in 1975.

Document #2 is the letter drafted by Grinstein at my request. I wanted to make sure whatever letter the Governor sent would help, and not hinder the groups looking to be the new owners of an expansion team in Seattle if the decision went our way. My handwritten instructions asked my secretary, Geneva Woodard, to type the letter for the Governor’s signature.

Document #3 is the response from Pete Rozelle, then NFL commissioner, to Governor Evans dated April 30, 1974. The handwritten distribution sequence shows I had read it and sent it on to the Governor.

In June 1974 the NFL awarded the franchise to Seattle. The team ran a contest asking Seattleites to help name the team. The winning entry gave the team its name, and the Seahawks began play in 1976 in the new Kingdome. The rest, as they say, is history.

After being swept up with the rest of Seattle and fans across the country in Seahawk mania over the past two months, I feel such an enormous sense of privilege to have worked for an outstanding Governor and great man, Dan Evans, augmented by a sweet memory of my bit part in the orchestration that brought the Seahawks to Seattle.