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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 1,375

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This is the grave of Lamar Hunt.

Born in 1932 in El Dorado, Arkansas, Hunt was the son of the oil baron and right-wing extremist H.L Hunt. At the time of Lamar’s birth, H.L. hadn’t hit it rich yet but he did have the horrendous politics. He would pass those down to his son. He was sent to fancy private schools and then to college at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. He was also a backup football player on the team. Might have been a walk-on. But while he got a degree in geology, fitting his oil background, he never really was going to have to work. So he spent his riches on sports.

Hunt really wanted to bring a NFL team to Dallas. The NFL was skeptical on Dallas in the late 50s. It denied him an expansion franchise. He then sought to buy the Cardinals and move them from Chicago to Dallas, but that didn’t happen either (the Cardinals of course have been a transient franchise and are now in Phoenix after another failed stint in St. Louis). So Hunt got together with other rich guys he knew who the NFL had denied, particularly his fellow oil man Bud Adams, who had wanted a team in Houston, and they started the American Football League. They began play in 1960, with Hunt owning the Dallas Texans.

The NFL was a little bit like the American Federation of Labor at the time that the CIO came around. It was a stolid organization of conservative men (they were all politically conservative, but I mean more culturally and unimaginative) that did not want to change, even though there product was not meeting the national demand for football. So the American Football League was a bit like the CIO in that not only did it realize there was an untapped market for what it was providing, but it forced the older organization to actually change its ways. The NFL immediately saw that it was going to lose Texas entirely and so it created the Dallas Cowboys in the same year to keep the market. Unfortunately for America and the world, Dallas became a Cowboys town very quickly and it remains so today. So Hunt was again locked out from having success in bringing a meaningful football team to his home town.

Now, Hunt did want to leave Dallas. But he knew it could not hold two teams. So he decided to move the team. But he didn’t want to go very far. He wanted a quick commute from his home. Kansas City became the city that made sense. The Texans moved there in 1963 and became the Chiefs, as while changing franchises while keeping the original name might be ridiculous for the Lakers and Jazz, to call a team outside of Texas then Texans wasn’t happening. The Chiefs soon became a success story and really has been one of the better franchises in football over the decades. When the NFL and AFL decided to create a title game, the first Super Bowl included the Chiefs, who lost to the Packers. It then won the fourth Super Bowl, defeating the Vikings. In fact, it was Hunt who came up with the name “Super Bowl.” When the NFL and AFL merged, the Chiefs struggled. They didn’t go to the playoffs between 1971 and 1986 and between 1974 and 1986 had only winning season, and that was just 9-7. The 90s however saw a huge turnaround with consistently excellent teams that just could never get over the hump and make the Super Bowl. Mostly the team remained competitive for the rest of Hunt’s life, but they never would get to the Super Bowl again while he lived. Today of course they are the dominant franchise in the league thanks to Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid.

Hunt also had interest in other sports. He wanted to bring professional soccer to U.S. He usually attended the World Cup, wherever it is. He was a big player in the North American Soccer League, which did not really succeed but which was an important moment in the history of soccer in America. Moreover, the NFL tried to stop the rise of soccer by creating a rule that its owners could not own teams in other sports. Once again, the NFL was a backward-looking organization. Today of course, the billionaires who own NFL teams often own teams in other sports too. Hunt led the fight against this and filed an anti-trust suit against this NFL rule, which he won. Much later, he got involved in Major League Soccer. He initially owned not one but two teams, not only the team in Kansas City, but also the team in Columbus. He was a big tennis guy and helped create the current American tennis scene by co-founding the World Championship Tennis in 1968.

Now, Hunt was not the obnoxious extremist in public that his father was. Like lots of second generation rich people, there was a slight bit touch of class here and he kept the craziness a little more private. But he was long a huge Republican donor. I tried to look into this a bit and wasn’t able to find out too much. His son Lamar Jr. though was a huge donor of Rick Santorum, so…… He does seem to have avoided the scheme his brothers engaged in during the 70s to place a corner on the silver market, which rightly bankrupted them.

Hunt died in 2006. He was 74 years old.

Lamar Hunt is buried in Sparkman Hillcrest Memorial Park, Dallas, Texas. Incidentally, his wife Norma just died so presumably she will be here too. But she was not when I visited in October 2022.

If you would like this series to visit other NFL owners, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Art Rooney is in Pittsburgh and Paul Brown is in Massillon, Ohio. Previous posts in this series are archived here and here.

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