Conning the Cowboys?

Bob Hayes/AP

It was a way to be tangibly touched by the late Bob Hayes, and to tangibly touch him. Lucille Hester held the letter she said was from her brother. She showed it about to NFL officials and to the media, and at Saturday's Pro Football Hall of Fame announcement of the former Cowboys legend's coming induction, she dramatically read from it.

But friends and family of Bob Hayes are coming forward to me ask for help and to protest the increasingly high profile and the allegedly false claims of Hester, a person they insist is a "conwoman'' who has "hoodwinked'' the Dallas media, the Dallas Cowboys and the NFL – and a person they claim isn't even Hayes' sister.

"We've been trying to tell anyone who will listen that Lucille Hester might have been Bob's friend, but that she didn't really become a close friend until Bob was on his death bed,'' says Ted McIntosh, who says he was Hayes' business manager and best friend since college and is the godfather to Hayes' only son. "She's inventing stories. She's a fraud. The family has tried to tell anyone who will listen.

"But nobody will listen.''

On the day before Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa, Hester took the stage in her Cowboys-silver ballcap emblazoned on the front with "BOB HAYES'' and seemed to give emotional voice to the appreciative wishes of the legendary Cowboys receiver, who she said had written the letter and given it to her in 1999 in hopeful anticipation of this day finally arriving.

She's received international praise for her grace and eloquence; the New York Times said it "made the eyes of many in the audience misty.''

The Associated Press called it "the most poignant moment.''

Gary Myers of the New York Daily News termed it "one of the most compelling and touching scenes the Hall of Fame has ever seen.''

The letter serves as the symbol of a campaign Bob's sister Lucille has waged since his 2002 death – a campaign for attention.

The question the Hayes family says it struggles to answer: Is she seeking attention for Bob Hayes? Or for herself? And is she seeking more than just attention?

"I was married to Bob for 11 years,'' Janice Hayes-Mohl of Dallas told me this weekend. "I've met Lucille. Bob never introduced her as his ‘sister.' He always said he was his ‘play-sister,' like it was something from childhood. It is certain news to me and to Bob's real (siblings) that Lucille (was) suddenly their new sister.''

That letter, and the story behind it, is unbelievably charming.

But it's unbelievable in a few other ways, too.

The white sheet of paper upon which the letter had been typed – "He let someone type it up, I only did what he asked me to do,'' Lucille explained – remains quite crisp, despite having been dated "Oct. 20, 1999" (see below). It very generally thanks "everyone in the whole world.'' But it also very specifically thanks Roger Staubach – in fact, the former Cowboys quarterback is the only person beyond "Mother'' who is named over the course of the letter's four paragraphs. And then there is something awfully convenient about the dramatic effect of the letter; in countless interviews Lucille had given, had she ever before mentioned the living testament of the dead hero?

Of course, maybe the paper was crisp because it was so cherished by the Hayes family and kept in a scrapbook or something. And maybe Bob thanked Staubach because Roger helped Bob in his post-football career. And the dramatic effect of that convenient letter?

Is there anything wrong if Lucille Hester caps off her championing of the good fight for her brother Bob Hayes with a bit of self-aggrandizing theatrics?

Well, yes. Maybe. Especially inasmuch as to my layman eye, the signature on Lucille's cherished letter in no way resembles the authentic signature of the real Bob Hayes (see below).

Lucille Hester speaks to the media after Hayes was elected into the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame during a news conference Saturday afternoon in Tampa, Fla.(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
I am not a detective and I am not a handwriting analyst. But. ... the signatures do not match. Not even close.

"That figures,'' says McIntosh when I inform him of the appearance of a signature discrepancy. "This whole thing started with her claim that she should be in charge of Bob's will, that she had signed documentation from Bob. There was something wrong about those signatures, too. They said he wanted her to be in charge of all his worldly possessions.''

And what were those?

"His Super Bowl ring and his Olympic gold medals,'' McIntosh says. "That's all Bob had.''

Adds Janice: "What makes this whole thing so sad. … so funny but so sad. … is that Bob was never the type of man to bother with a will. He didn't do paperwork like that. He just didn't.''

Was he the type of man to write a letter in 1999 anticipating that it might come in handy nine years later upon his Hall of Fame induction?

"No,'' Janice said, chuckling softly. "He would never bother with such a silly thing.''

(It would be interesting, I told everyone interviewed for this story, to go back and re-examine the Hayes signature on the bottom of the contested will. Would it match the autograph on the bottom of Lucille's letter, or would it match the autograph I've found on the above photo of and numerous others of signed and authenticated Hayes memorabilia?)

Lucille Hester has been appearing in the newspapers and on TV as the "Hayes family spokesperson'' for years. The family says it found that bothersome in 2002 when there was debate over his estate (both Janice and McIntosh say Bob's true family relented because there was nothing material to fight over) but has opted to stay quiet ever since.

Until now.

"Bob Jr. wants to talk to you,'' McIntosh told me late Sunday. "But right now he's too distraught. The whole thing makes the family angry. It is just too odd.''

Indeed, the oddities in Lucille's story pile up almost as high as the accolades in her "brother's'' story.

Check out the Sept. 20, 2002 obituary in the New York Times – the obituary most often re-reported, from the news outlet recognized as the official word on the passing of people of significance – which never mentions Lucille Hester.

From the Times obit:

He is survived by a son, Bob Jr. of Dallas; four daughters, Glenda Moore and Dr. Westine Lodge of Jacksonville, Veronica Jenkins of Somerville, N.J., and Adrienne Thomas of Dallas; his mother, Mary Robinson; a brother, Ernest; a sister, Lena Johnson, all of Jacksonville, and eight grandchildren.

The Dallas Morning News has befriended Lucille Hester. NFL writer Rick Gosselin is the city's representative voter for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Gosselin has rightly, and now successfully, pushed for Hayes' induction. Meanwhile, News columnist Jean-Jacques Taylor has stepped way beyond that, regaling readers with numerous and lengthy accounts of phone calls and "lovely luncheons'' with Lucille.

Odd thing, then, that when the Dallas Morning News republished its obituary on Feb. 1, 2009, as a way to celebrate Bob's HOF induction, it included at the bottom of the story the traditional "survived-by'' paragraph.

Which reads:

Hayes is survived by a son, Bob Jr. of Dallas; four daughters, Glenda Moore and Dr. Westine Lodge, of Jacksonville, Veronica Jenkins of Somerville, N.J., and Adrienne Thomas of Dallas; his mother, Mary Robinson; a brother, Ernest, a sister, Lena Johnson, all of Jacksonville, and eight grandchildren. Funeral services are pending.

How is it that on one page, the Dallas Morning News is celebrating Lucille's energy and charity work and painting her as a dutiful sister … "strong and effervescent.'' ... and yet on another page is listing Bob's obituary "survived-by's'' and not including her?

Former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Bob Hayes waves to the fans as he walks onto the field at Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas, for induction to the Cowboys Ring of Honor on Sept. 23, 2001. (AP Photo/L.M. Otero)
Taylor wrote this weekend about sharing with Lucille "a forkful of key lime pie'' during a two-hour meal one day after having the previous day enjoyed dinner together during which she "dined on the crab cake sandwich with lemonade, while I had salmon with wild rice.'' He writes that they "hit it off,'' and it shows: Over the span of two days in Tampa, Taylor wrote a rather astounding eight articles (six blog items and two lead columns) about Lucille Hester.

According to one of Taylor's effusive stories on Hester, "Each August she takes a couple of busloads of inner-city kids from Washington, D.C. to Canton, where she cheers for the newest class of inductees. She takes the kids to expose them to aspects of life they might not otherwise see, but her primary goal is to remind but her primary goal is to remind everyone of Bob's greatness.''

Lucille Hester has, according to Taylor, led a rather fantastic life -- "Forest Gump''-like, really. In one blog item alone, Taylor notes that Lucille was:

* Present for Hayes' famous Olympic performance in Toyko;

* There for the very first Super Bowl;

* In attendance at the Cowboys-Packers "Ice Bowl'' in Green Bay. ... and that the iconic pictures of Bob awkwardly running pass patterns with his hands tucked into his pockets were the result of her advice to do so.

"I just wanted my brother to keep his hands warm,'' Hester told Taylor. "Now, the world will know it was my fault.''

The tales seem. ... fantastic.

McIntosh says he has contacted Taylor numerous times, begging the journalist to investigate further so he can discover that Hester's story is suspect.

"(Taylor) just says, ‘Sure, man, sure,''' McIntosh says. "And then he hangs up.''

McIntosh says he has also contacted officials from the NFL and the Cowboys in attempt to clear up what he says is "not only a criminal offense, but also an offense to Bob's memory.'' Following my weekend-long conversations with family members, they've sent out a rash of emails to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and others. Signing off on the email are Ted, Bob Jr., Janice, Lena and Ernest. The correspondence includes an offer to provide "birth records'' to NFL officials to verify that Lucille Hester is an outsider.

I explain to McIntosh that this weekend, the NFL probably wants no part of his version of the truth. Not this weekend. Certainly some time before Aug. 8, when Hayes will get his bust in Canton. But not this weekend. I urge him to make sure to contact Cowboys PR boss Rich Dalrymple, who I assure him is the type of man who will be happy to help, no matter the embarrassment it causes.

"Richie Rich?'' McIntosh answers. "I've called him! I know him. … I call him ‘Richie Rich.' I haven't gotten a call back yet.''

It is then I realize that the "Mr. McIntosh'' we're dealing with here is the father of Toddrick McIntosh, a former NFL player with the Cowboys and other teams. And he can't get the NFL or the Cowboys to call him back?

No. The NFL does not want to deal with this. Not this weekend.

I cannot fathom what would be the motivation for Ted McIntosh -- Bob's best friend and Bob Jr.'s godfather -- to lie? What is the motivation for ex-wife Janice to lie? Why would Bob Jr. lie? Bob Jr., 30, is described to me by multiple interview subjects as "painfully shy,'' a person who uses his weekends to check in on McIntosh ("as Bob asked him to do,'' McIntosh says), a person who wants no part of arguing over the spotlight.

"It's one of the reasons we all let this go (in 2002),'' McIntosh says. "They family got tired of fighting and Bob Jr. doesn't want to make a fuss. But we've got to do something now. It's gone too far.''

Why would Lucille Hester lie? It is possible that she loved Bob Hayes, even as a "play-sister,'' and that her motivation is pure – even if her Hayes lineage is not. Maybe she innocently got carried away with the excitement of it all?

McIntosh says he believes that Hester grew up in the same Florida neighborhood as the Hayeses but that her tie to Bob strengthened only late in life when "The World's Fastest Man'' fell ill.

"Bob had never mentioned her to me in any significant way until he got sick and was dying,'' McIntosh says. "And all the sudden, she was in charge of everything. The funeral, everything. She came up with a will when there was no will. Bob's daughter (Westine) was supposed to be the executor of the estate. But Lucille produced a letter that she said was signed by Bob that put her in charge.''

I got one indication from what could be termed "the Hester camp'' that Lucille has told people that she and Bob share a father. The Hayes family is prepared to argue otherwise. But ex-wife Janice concedes that it is a possibility, however remote, that Lucille is Bob's "long-lost sister.''

"But even if that were true,'' Janice says, "why is she being exclusive instead of inclusive? Bob has a brother and he has sisters. He has four daughters, he has grandchildren, and he has a son, Bob Jr. Even if (Lucille) is in charge, why aren't other family members allowed a vote or a voice?''

Why would Lucille Hester lie? I suppose a contested will might be motivation enough. I suppose free trips to Super Bowls and to Pro Bowl in Hawaii might do it, too; I'm told HOF exec Joe Horrigan this weekend asked the Hayeses for "names of other family members who want to join (Lucille) next week in Hawaii.''

None of the friends and family members I've talked to plan on accepting the invite. Not if it means joining this supposedly relative stranger named Lucille.

Is it really possible that anybody is crass enough to fake their way to surfing off Bob Hayes' reborn fame? Why was that letter so unwrinkled and unworn? Why isn't Lucille Hester listed as a sister in Bob's obit? Why does a document featuring a Bob Hayes' signature look nothing like a dozen other official Bob Hayes signatures? Why would Bob Hayes' son, best friend, two sisters and ex-wife conspire to tell anything but the truth?

Bob Hayes' family and friends don't have all the answers. But they are frustrated that everybody – the mainstream media, the Dallas Cowboys, the NFL – seems too enamored with Lucille and Bob's story and with Lucille and Bob's letter to have paused to ask a few more questions.

The Hayeses plan to involve law-enforcement officials. But first. …

"We've got to do something before Aug. 8,'' says Bob's ex-wife, Janice Hayes-Mohl. "I think Bob Jr. should probably be on that stage, if he wants to be, if he's up to it, to accept his father's (Hall of Fame) jacket. As it's going, I bet Lucille thinks she's going to wear that jacket around.''

It's funny that Janice would say that. Because as a matter of fact, Lucille Hester has indeed told her media friends who she intends to be the person who will appoint the person who will give the Bob Hayes acceptance speech on Aug. 8 at the Hall of Fame.

Lucille Hester intends to appoint Lucille Hester.

Special credit to "Ben and Skin'' on Dallas' 105.3 The Fan radio for their work on this story.


Authentic Bob Hayes Signature



Signature on the letter from this weekend. (AP)

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