D.C. School Counselor In NFL Family Feud
In Washington, Lucille Hester is a middle school guidance counselor and the athletic director at Hardy Middle School. She's a longtime activist in local youth sports programs and president of the Pigskin Club, a charitable organization celebrating black achievements in sports.
But in Texas over the past couple of weeks, Lucille Hester has become a mysterious and controversial figure at the center of a sad and ugly family feud involving the beloved football star Bob Hayes, who was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Jan. 31. Hester says she is Hayes' sister; some of the football star's other relations say that's not the case.
For several years, Hester has been a regular presence in the Dallas media, showing up there and around the country to lobby for Hayes to gain entry into the Hall of Fame, something he did not live to see happen. Hayes, who won worldwide fame as the fastest man on Earth with his performance in the 1964 Olympics, went on to star for the Dallas Cowboys.
But when Hester arrived in Florida two weeks ago to serve as the Hayes family spokesman during the run-up to the Super Bowl--and especially after numerous press accounts portrayed her as Hayes' sister--the late player's brother, Ernest Hayes, came forward to contend that Hester is a "fraud."
A wild volley of charges and countercharges followed, and, in keeping with the spirit of these web-centric times, readers jumped in to analyze Hester's story and her evidence.
Hester had shown reporters a letter that she said Bob Hayes had written to her in 1999, asking her to express his thanks should he ever get into the Hall of Fame. But now readers came forth to argue that the letter contained inaccuracies, errors that Hayes would never have made, such as thanking Roger Staubach instead of Don Meredith as the quarterback who threw Hayes so many passes. Others questioned whether the font in which the letter was typed even existed in 1999, or whether Hayes' signature on an autographed photo that Hester displayed was even close to Hayes' true handwriting.
My efforts to reach Hester have been unsuccessful. At Hardy Middle School in Georgetown, the aides at the front desk say Hester has not been at work and they don't know when she will return. Nor does Hester answer her phone. But her lawyer, Laura Jordan, released a statement in which the beleaguered Hester denies any misrepresentation and says that she and Hayes are siblings and were "very close."
"Like many families in those days," she writes, "if you were not the child of the marital union, you were considered illegitimate. That was supposed to be a stigma.... By those standards, Bob Hayes doesn't have a 'full' brother or sister."
Hester says she and Bob Hayes share a biological father, George Sanders, a Jacksonville shoeshine man who died in 1977, and that Hayes' two other siblings shared a different biological mother from Hester's. But Hester concedes that her birth certificate does not list Sanders as her father; the parents listed on the document are, rather, her foster mother and foster father, she says. She says her name does not appear in Hayes' 1990 autobiography, "Run, Bullet, Run," because she requested that she be left out so as to avoid any embarrassment for her birth mother, who she says was still living at the time.
Whatever the jealousies and competition within the extended family, the various strands have come together in the past few days. Hester and three other Hayes family members attended Sunday's Pro Bowl in Hawaii, where they held a news conference and said they have decided to put aside their differences to celebrate his induction into the Hall next summer.
"We're here to celebrate Bob and his accomplishments," said Janice Hayes-Mohl, the player's second wife. "So whatever it is that's going on otherwise, it will play out in due time."
Sounds like there'll be another chapter on this one.
By Marc Fisher |
February 12, 2009; 1:15 PM ET
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