The First Big Whale

30May16

In 1962, NASA solicited eleven firms to bid on the design and construction of the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) – a vehicle that would be capable of making a landing on the moon. While the invitation went to eleven firms, there were two major competitors. One was Martin-Marietta from Georgia, and the other was Grumman Aircraft Engineering, which had been responsible for building most of the military’s fighter aircraft – Wildcats, Hellcats, Tigercats Bearcats and others.

Clearly, Grumman was the better candidate, and they felt they had submitted a far superior bid. But Martin-Marietta was based in Georgia, and the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee (succeeding Saltonstall, in fact) was Richard Russell, an enormously powerful man with a reputation as an autocrat. He was going to see that the award went to Martin-Marietta. Fortuitously, the general counsel of Grumman was Colson’s former Navy boss, Llewelyn Evans, and when Evans saw the bind his company was in, he called Colson.

Evans told Colson, “I have a big problem –we’ve been working on the LEM project for years, we’re by far the best bid, and we’re going to get buried by Russell. I’ve got to get in to see Dick McGuire[1]– can you help me?”

So there were Colson and Morin, two Republicans from Boston representing Grumman in a street fight against an autocratic southern Democrat and his hometown boys, and looking to the Boston Latin Mafia for their silver bullet.

Colson called Dan Lynch at Saltonstall’s office and told him the problem; Lynch invited Colson to bring his clients in, and soon, Evans and his Grumman team spent an hour in Saltonstall’s Senate office educating Lynch about LEM. When Lynch was through learning, he called Dick McGuire, his childhood pal, and asked him to see Evans, and of course, Dick said, “Anytime Danny, bring him right up!” Evans had been trying for a year to get an appointment with McGuire, and there he was five minutes later, sitting in McGuire’s outer office with Dan Lynch after one phone call. Soon, McGuire came out.

“Danny boy, HOWAHYAAHH!!! My Gawd it’s great to see ya,” he said in the archetypal Boston dialect.

Lynch returned McGuire’s hug and tried to introduce him to Evans, but McGuire cut him off – “we’ll get to that in a few minutes – Danny, come on in, I want to talk to you,” and McGuire took Dan Lynch into his office and left Evans in the waiting room alone.

In his office, Maguire said, “Danny, let him sit for a while, let him know how important you are. What can I do for you?” Lynch explained why they were there, and the two of them mapped out a game plan; and then McGuire allowed Lew Evans to join them. He explained to Evans that because of Grumman’s advocacy (i.e., Colson), he would interceded with Senator Russell, provided that certain political contributions were made to certain people.

The contract was awarded to Grumman, and in July of 1969, LEM landed on the moon and Grumman was permanently on the map.

Grumman was an appreciative and loyal client, retaining Colson & Morin annually for years to come; and as a result of their early success with Grumman, Colson & Morin signed on Harrington & Richardson Arms (later H&R Firearms), a Worcester company that was then the biggest rifle manufacturer in the world (they made the M-1 and M-14 rifles for the U. S. Military), and a number of other regional clients.

It couldn’t have happened too soon. Colson and Morin didn’t have a lot of money to establish their firm; and both had growing families and now a double office overhead. Colson borrowed $3,000, and they rented all of their office furnishings, right down to the carpeting (a relatively new scheme introduced to them by Bob Zeltzer, whom they had assisted in the creation of his new business, “Offices Unlimited”).

[1] McGuire was then the treasurer of the Democratic National Committee and one of Kennedy’s people.

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