The First Big Whale

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.

The Birth of Gadsby & Hannah

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.”