The Birth of Gadsby & Hannah

23May16

One day in 1956, Senator Saltonstall asked Brad Morse to get him some information from the Department of the Navy. Morse called Llewelyn Evans, the Navy‘s general counsel, and Evans put him in touch with a young lawyer on his staff. Morse later told Morin, “this guy was the brightest kid I ever talked to in the services. He had all the answers, came over to my office, told me exactly what I needed to know. And I was so impressed that I said, ‘how would you like to come to work in the Senate?’”

And soon thereafter, with the Senator’s enthusiastic support, Morse hired the Navy lawyer as Saltonstall’s legislative assistant. His name was Charles W. Colson.

Two years later, Morse left Saltonstall’s office to become deputy administrator of the Veterans Administration. Colson then moved up to become Saltonstall’s administrative assistant.

Colson had a mentor in the office — Dan Lynch, a red-headed Irish Catholic who had been Saltonstall’s legal assistant in Boston when he was Governor (even though Salty was an old Boston Yankee, he was beloved for his common touch with the people, many of whom were, at the time, Irish Catholic immigrants). It was shrewd of Saltonstall to bring a few of the Dan Lynches of the world into his circle. Dan Lynch had gone to Boston Latin with what was called the “Boston Latin School Mafia,” which included a man named Dick McGuire. They were all Democrats except Lynch, who was a “black sheep” in the neighborhood. At that time, Republicans were in control of the Senate, so Saltonstall was a very powerful Senator. Consequently, any time the Democrats wanted anything, they would go through McGuire to Lynch, and he would frequently go to bat for them with his boss.

During this time, Morse, Colson and Morin began to discuss the idea of starting a law firm. Morse had grandiose ideas about opening offices in Boston and Washington and New York, and looking ahead to Atlanta and Denver and Los Angeles and Chicago. The three of them were sitting over Scotch in one of the hotels up on The Hill, talking about the future. Morin said, “Brad, there are such things as bar associations in these states. And you know, it’s a little difficult to have – it’s not like an accounting firm.” Morse looked at Morin and said, “Carlos, details, just details.” Morse’s futuristic vision of a national law firms was indeed prescient.

Their nascent plans soon took an unexpected turn.

On September 10, 1960, the congresswoman from Morse’s district, Edith Nourse Rogers, died of pneumonia less than a week after the primary elections. She had won a special election to Congress after her husband’s death in 1925 and was the first woman elected to Congress from New England. Her death left the Republicans with no candidate on the ballot, which had already been printed for the general election. It was incumbent on the Republican State Committee to select a replacement candidate who would have to run on stickers against the Democrat, William C. Madden.

With Saltonstall’s blessing, Colson went to Massachusetts to meet with the state committee. They had already selected a short list of people, and Morse wasn’t on it; but Colson told the state committee, “There’s only one person that can win this election, and that’s Brad Morse, the senator’s administrative assistant.” Through sheer force of his personality, knowledge and powers of persuasion, Colson made a compelling case and the state committee bought it. The chairman of the committee at the time, Ralph Crossman, exuberant that they had a candidate that Colson assured them could win, said “We’ve got to get stickers printed right away!”

Colson’s reply: “I’ve already done that.”

With a good deal of strategic assistance from Colson, Morse beat Madden by over 20,000 votes with 54%.

At the same time that Morse was campaigning for the House seat, Colson was also running Saltonstall’s re-election race against Thomas J. O’Connor, the Democrat Mayor of Springfield. That year, John Kennedy was on the national ticket running against Nixon, and although O’Connor wouldn’t have been much competition under normal circumstances, the Kennedy aura and the burgeoning Irish Catholic vote in Massachusetts were troublesome to the Saltonstall camp. In fact, the Republican high command in Massachusetts wanted Saltonstall not to run at all – they didn’t want him to end his career with a humiliating defeat.[1] Despite this, Colson talked his boss into running, but told him, “stay out of Massachusetts, I’ll run your campaign.”

One of the first things Colson did was to create a bumper sticker that was an exact copy of the Massachusetts number plate, which read “SALTY IN 60.” With Foster Furcolo as the Democrat Governor (himself having lost narrowly to Salty in 1956), the Registry of Motor Vehicles began threatening to ban the sticker for “public safety” reasons. But this was what Colson was counting on, a Democratic administration playing politics in a shameful manner like this. They caught on, one supposes, and abandoned the plan.

O’Connor began to make a big thing about debating Saltonstall. When the press asked Colson if the Senator would debate, Colson said, “The senator is too busy in Washington representing the people of this commonwealth to engage in debates with this young fellow.” He said, “if the man wants to debate, I’ll debate him on the steps of his own city hall.” O’Connor reluctantly agreed.

Unknown to O’Connor or the press corps, Colson had been the captain of the debating team at Brown. A debate occurred on the steps of Springfield City Hall, and Colson annihilated O’Connor. He revealed O’Connor to be totally unknowledgeable about the federal government and foreign policy. And at the end of the day, Saltonstall beat O’Connor by 330,000 votes while JFK beat Nixon by 550,000 – an amazing victory under the circumstances. Saltonstall was re-elected and at the beginning of 1961, according to his agreement, Colson then left the Senator’s office to join Morin in the fledgling firm of Colson & Morin.

Morin was no spectator to politics himself. In that same campaign year, Morin was raising money for his law school friend Ed Brooke’s campaign for Secretary of State. Two years later, he chaired the finance committee  for Brooke’s campaign for Attorney General, which Brooke won. He  also chaired the campaign  for conservative Republican John McCarthy, who was facing off against the Yankee liberal Republican George Cabot Lodge in the primary race for the U. S. Senate seat that had been vacated by John F. Kennedy in 1960 and was being “kept warm” by Kennedy family friend Benjamin Smith until younger brother Teddy could reach the constitutional age for senator. McCarthy lost his race, and Lodge went on to lose to the 29 year old Edward M. Kennedy, who had beat Speaker John McCormack’s nephew, Edward J. McCormack, in the Democratic primary.[2]

Initially, the firm of Colson & Morin was comprised of a small two-room office in Boston, and in Washington, they had a reception area and two small offices in the new VFW Building on Maryland Avenue. They had a secretary in each office, both of whom they frequently had to pay out of their own pockets. But due in large measure to Colson’s prodigious business development skills, things would quickly improve.

[1] This type of “thinking” by Massachusetts Republican leaders would portend the beginning of a long and relentless slide into virtual obscurity.

[2] It was during this nasty primary campaign that McCormack, himself the scion of a powerful political family, sniped to Kennedy, “If your name was simply Edward Moore instead of Edward Moore Kennedy, your candidacy would be a joke.”

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