Wayne Valley

Francis Wayne Valley
Born March 28, 1914, Portland, Oregon
Died October 2, 1986, Piedmont, California, age 72

Wayne Valley was the primary moving force behind the Oakland Raiders during the AFL years. After Chet Soda’s departure in early 1961, Valley took the reins and made the decisions that made the Raiders a professional football power by the end of the decade. His most consequential decision, though, the hiring of Al Davis in 1963, ultimately led to the usurpation of his authority and after a bitter power struggle, he sold out just months before the team won its first Super Bowl championship.

Francis Wayne Valley was born March 28, 1914 to a schoolteacher from Maine named Abbie and her French-Canadian husband who died within a year of Valley’s birth.[1] Two years later, the widowed mother moved to Oakland with her infant son and took a teaching position at tiny Beulah Grammar School.

Wayne attended his mother’s school and as he grew up developed an aptitude for sports. After graduating from Castlemont High in 1931, he attended St. Mary’s College briefly before heading north to Oregon State Agricultural College (now Oregon State University). There, he worked as a lumberjack to earn his way through school. He hadn’t played football in high school but turned out for the Oregon State squad and played well enough to be named a team captain in 1935. For academic reasons, he later transferred to the University of Oregon where he completed his degree.

By 1940 he was married to the former Gladys Leibbrand, with whom he had four children: Patrick Wayne, Tamara, Sonya, and Michael. Following in the footsteps of an uncle who had been in the trade, Valley started a home building business in 1940 that would earn him a small fortune in the coming years. By 1960 he was “a millionaire several times over,” owned a private airplane, and Besco, his business partnership formed with a man named Jack Brooks, was building shopping centers and thousand-unit housing developments.

Almost from the beginning, he had dreamed of owning a pro football team. During the war years, he and fellow builder Ed McGah had tried unsuccessfully to buy a semi-pro team in San Francisco and later the pair tried to get involved with the All-America Football Conference 49ers, but that deal fell through, too. So, when the chance came to get an American Football League franchise for Oakland, it was only natural that Valley was in on the deal.

He was the Raiders’ vice president under Soda the first season. Arguments over how to spend money led to a major reorganization of the ownership group, resulting in five of the eight owners selling out and leaving Valley in an ascendant position. He was still vice president, under McGah, but as the only member of the group to have played the game at a high level, he tended to take the lead in controlling field operations.

Fellow owner Robert Osborne’s ill-health and arguments over keeping the team in Oakland resulted in his departure, leaving just McGah and Valley holding the reins. Two awful seasons in 1961 and 1962 almost ended with the league taking back the franchise and in a last effort to right the ship, Valley hired Chargers assistant Al Davis as head coach and general manager. Davis immediately made the Raiders a contender in the AFL west and as a result earned a reputation as a young football genius, an epithet Valley would apply to him, both in praise and in derision, over the coming decade.

With the team’s continued existence assured, Valley split time between the team and running his development business. After Davis’s brief stint as AFL Commissioner in 1966 ended with the merger, Valley and McGah welcomed him back to the Raiders as the third general partner, giving him a small piece of the team that would grow over time, and paid him a salary to take charge of football operations.

Davis slowly expanded his influence over the team, causing Valley to have some misgivings, but a tragedy in the spring of 1969 pushed all thoughts of the Raiders aside for a time. His son, Wayne Jr., who like his father had been a standout football player at Oregon State, drowned in a swimming accident. The 25-year-old had been swimming with friends in the North Santiam River in Oregon. After jumping off a rock into the water he failed to surface. It wasn’t until several days later that his body was found two miles downstream from where he went in.

When he returned to football, he continued to take an active role in league as well as team operations, serving on the NFL’s player relations committee in the early 1970s. In 1973, though, a fissure opened in the Raider partnership that would lead to Valley’s departure. According to a lawsuit Valley filed in April, McGah had signed Davis to a 20-year contract extension that would give Davis what amounted to dictatorial powers over the team’s operations. Valley argued that McGah and Davis had not informed him of the contract offer prior to Davis’s signing of it and wanted it declared invalid. Davis contended that Valley had been aware of the contract months before and McGah argued that Valley was airing dirty laundry in public, that Valley had made a mess of things when he was in charge, and that Davis was the superior choice for the position.

The suit played out in both the courts and in the public opinion arena for couple of years but was eventually decided mostly in Davis’s favor with some reduction in his powers. By then, reconciliation was impossible, and Valley sold his share back to the team in early 1976, less than a year before their first championship.

Still a wealthy man from his housing development operations, Valley spent the next couple of years trying to buy control of the ailing 49ers, but was blocked by Golden State Warriors owner Franklin Mieuli who also owned a small chunk of the Niners. A few years later, when Charlie Finley was threatening to sell the Oakland Athletics to a Denver businessman, Valley made an offer to buy the team. Davis was trying to move the Raiders to Los Angeles at the time and Finley saw the offer as Valley’s way getting under Davis’s skin and rejected it.

By now, Valley’s health was starting to decline. In the mid-60s, he had had his first surgery to treat arteriosclerosis and in 1981 he underwent heart bypass surgery. He lived a few years more, tending to his real estate ventures, but in 1986 he was diagnosed with an unspecified form of malignant cancer that was described as “fast-moving”. He died at home on October 2, survived by his wife Gladys, children Tamara, Sonya, and Michael, and seven grandchildren.

Auburn Journal
Berkeley Gazette
Corvallis Gazette-Times
Eugene Guard
Fremont Argus
Klamath News
Los Angeles Times
Medford Mail-Tribune
Oakland Tribune
Pasadena Independent Star-News
Redlands Daily Facts
Roseburg News-Review
Sacramento Bee
Salem Capital-Journal
Salem Statesman-Journal
San Bernardino County Sun
San Francisco Examiner
San Mateo Times
San Rafael Daily Independent-Journal
Santa Cruz Sentinel
Santa Rosa Press-Democrat
Stockton Independent
Ukiah Daily Journal
United States Census Bureau

[1] I couldn’t find his father’s name in any of the sources I looked at, though it seems pretty certain his father and mother were married at the time of his birth.

Robert Osborne

Robert L. Osborne
Born November 23, 1897, Cleveland
Died September 26, 1968, Oakland

A mechanical engineer by training and by trade, Robert Osborne moved to Oakland in his mid-thirties and turned his manufacturing business into a small fortune. His experiences as a businessman and industrialist led him to seek a seat on the Oakland City Council, a position he held for 11 years, and his wealth enabled him to be one of the eight original investors in the Oakland Raiders. Opinionated, outspoken, and sometimes reactionary, he was a staunch champion of his adopted city and may have been responsible for keeping the Raiders in Oakland through its darkest days when his fellow owners were ready to sell out or move out.

Born Bryan R. Osborne (or Bryan L. – see note), he was the third of six children born to Don and Agnes Osborne.[1] Don Osborne was a Cleveland attorney who later left law practice and formed a machinery manufacturing firm. His success in the field was marred by bankruptcy in 1912, but he weathered the storm successfully and kept the business going until retiring in the 1920s and moving to the Los Angeles area. Not much is known about Bryan’s youth other than he started going by the name of Robert sometime after 1910 and was a childhood friend of Bob Hope, whose family had moved to Cleveland from the UK in 1908. Though there is only tenuous evidence for it, it is likely that Osborne attended Purdue University after graduating high school, in pursuit of a mechanical engineering degree.

By 1920 Osborne had moved in with his sister and her husband in Cleveland who was an office manager for her father’s company. Osborne himself was probably working as a salesman in the firm. Sometime in the 1920s he married his first wife, Carolyn, and in the early 1930s they adopted a child. Shortly after the adoption, Carolyn filed for a divorce, citing gross neglect, and sued Osborne for lack of support. By this time, Osborne was out of the machinery business and running a Cleveland nightclub.

In 1935 his father died and that same year he and his brother, Don, Jr., traveled west, settling in the Oakland area. He found work as a salesman for a machinery distributor and soon met and married his second wife, Katherine. By 1941 he had started his own business, the Osborne Engineering Company, originally based in San Francisco, but just after the war, he built a $250,000 factory in San Leandro which became his base of operations for most of the rest of his career.

In 1949, Osborne and his wife, who had no kids at time, traveled to Ireland where they adopted a pair of children, Terry and Cecilia (called Teela by everyone who knew her).[2] In 1950, Osborne expanded his operations, acquiring the Malabar Manufacturing Company and building another large plant in San Leandro to house its operations.

Born into a Catholic family and a lifelong communicant himself, Osborne was a regular contributor to the Church’s charitable activities and in 1951 he was elected vice president of the Board of Regents of St. Mary’s College in Moraga. Through these activities he made the acquaintance of several like-minded businessmen, such as Art Beckett, Charles Harney, Ed McGah, and Chet Soda, who would later be his pro football partners.

In 1953 Osborne took his first crack at politics, running for a spot on the Oakland Board of Education, with a platform of increasing local control of schools, increasing teacher pay, and building more classrooms. He lost a close vote, but he wouldn’t give up on politics.

In 1954 he started his own newspaper, the Oakland Free Press, which may have been the start (or the result) of his long-running feud with the Knowland family who ran the Oakland Tribune. The venture never took off, though, and failed within a couple of years. That same year, he received an offer from Victor Morabito, one of the owners of the San Francisco 49ers, to purchase half the team for $275,000. The Morabitos were having money troubles, but were unwilling to give up any voting rights to go with the share of the team, and one of the stipulations of the contract offer gave Victor the right to purchase a new automobile every other year at the team’s expense. Osborne declined the offer, saying he thought Victor should buy his own cars.

In 1957 Osborne made his first fun at an Oakland City Council seat. Accused of running a negative, destructive campaign by his main opponent, he finished a strong second in the primary then easily won the run-off between the top two candidates. His election was characterized as breaking the hold ward politics had had on the council and he was soon described as a “fighting maverick” challenging long-standing practices and what he believed was a cavalier attitude toward taxpayer money. Throughout his time on the council he was regarded as something of a gadfly, opposing tax increases and poverty relief measures, and taking a dim view of the increasing power of racial minorities in city politics.

With a high profile in local affairs he was one of the leading figures in the effort to bring an American Football League franchise to Oakland. Along with many of his fellow leaders in the Catholic community and some other well-heeled acquaintances, he persuaded the league to give them a team and acted as an early spokesman on matters such as coaching hires and the building of a stadium.

Very much an Oakland partisan, he took serious issue with his fellow owners, especially Soda, when any of them suggested moving the team out of town in response to poor attendance and financial losses. Matters came to a head in January 1961 resulting in five of the owners selling out, leaving the team in the hands of Osborne, McGah, and Wayne Valley, with Osborne taking on the role of team treasurer.

Soon after the team’s reorganization, Osborne faced an election to retain his council seat and won by a better than 3-to-1 margin over his nearest competitor. With a comfortable win under his belt he continued his council work and that of running his team. Despite stronger leadership, though, the Raiders were still playing before sparse crowds in San Francisco and the owners were bleeding cash. While he was working to find a place to play in the East Bay, McGah and Valley were making noises about having to sell the team to outside bidders. Osborne again came out in strong opposition to the idea, but as the controversy gained steam, he began to have health problems, suffering a series of small heart attacks, including one while attending a game against the Chargers at Candlestick Park. As a result, he spent two weeks in the hospital followed by another three months of home convalescence, seriously curtailing his work with either the team or the council.

As a result of increasing differences with McGah and Valley and his health difficulties, he sold his share of the Raiders to the other two in May 1962. That same year he began to downsize his manufacturing operations, closing one plant and auctioning off the equipment, while continuing to act as a broker, buying and selling equipment.

Slowed, perhaps, but undaunted he continued his support of fiscal conservatism, taking on his biggest project yet, opposing the construction of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) rail network, complaining that the cost to the city was far too high and that the contract provided far too much latitude for uncontrolled spending beyond that called for in the contract. He would lose the fight, eventually, but he never tired of trying to slow the project down.

In 1964 he suffered another heart attack and spent two more weeks in the hospital but recovered and felt well enough to seek re-election the following year. This time he was unopposed and continued his fight against what he saw as irresponsible spending and catering to interest groups he thought didn’t contribute enough in taxes.

In 1967 he was joined on the council by former Raider co-owner Harvey Binns, whose brash style sometimes rankled Osborne, but they shared enough political goals to often end up on the same side of issues.

However, his health continued to deteriorate. He frequently missed council meetings because of illness and at the age of 70 was plainly in decline. On September 20, 1968, he entered an Oakland hospital and suffered a “severe” heart attack two days later. He held on for four more days but died on the morning of the 26th.

Eulogies praised his service to the city of Oakland and recognized his “vigorous pursuit of economy and fiscal control.” He was survived by his wife, two children, and one grandchild.

Chico Enterprise-Record
Cleveland Leader
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Mansfield News-Journal
Napa Journal
Napa Valley Register
Oakland Tribune
Pomona Progress-Bulletin
Sacramento Bee
San Francisco Examiner
San Mateo Times
San Pedro News-Pilot
Santa Rosa Press-Democrat
Santa Rosa Republican
Zanesville Times-Recorder
United States Census Bureau

[1] The 1900 census lists him as Bryan L. The 1910 census lists him as Bryan R. The 1920 census lists him as Robert L. I could find no explanation for any of the changes. Oddly, the Osborne’s eldest child was listed as Margaret in the 1900 census and Irene M. in the 1910 census, so somewhere there was a significant change of heart.

[2] Nothing in any of the stories says whether Terry and Teela, who were both a year old at the time of their adoption, were twins, or even siblings by birth.

Ed McGah

Edward Winston McGah
Born July 18, 1899, Alameda(?), California
Died September 17, 1983, Los Angeles, age 84

Ed McGah owned a piece of the Oakland Raiders longer than any of the other seven original owners. Described as “thoughtful” and “low-key”, he stuck with the team through internal squabbles, big financial losses, profoundly bad play, and lawsuits, and lived to see them win two Super Bowl championships.

He was the eldest of three surviving children of James and Wilhelmina McGah. Two of his siblings died in childhood and those who remained were his sisters Hildreth (born 1903) and Erol (born c.1909). His father worked variously as a longshoreman and general laborer while the kids were growing up. Ed left school after the eighth grade but was an avid young baseballer playing in amateur leagues into his 20s.

He was still living at home when he married his first wife, Gertrude, sometime around 1920. Edward, Jr., their only child, was born in 1921, and grew up to be a good enough ballplayer himself to get a cup of coffee with the Boston Red Sox in the late 1940s. Somewhere around this time Ed, Sr., took a job with the Superior Tile Company, based in Berkeley, and worked his way up to president of the firm by the mid-1930s.

Sometime before 1930, despite being Catholic, Ed and Gertrude divorced, and Ed married his second wife, Lucille. Into the thirties, he and Superior Tile took on bigger jobs, acting as a subcontractor on such projects as the Yerba Buena Tunnel on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. By the early 1940s, he had become a land developer and house builder, and was wealthy enough to try and land a semi-pro football team with fellow businessman and future Raider co-owner Wayne Valley, with the goal of getting into the NFL. Later that decade, he tried to get a piece of the San Francisco 49ers in the All-America Football Conference, but both efforts failed.

Still, he was making money. His development company built a large tract of 1,500 new homes in central Contra Costa County and joined up with a partner to from the McBail Development Company in 1949. In the 1950s, he branched out further, forming the Trancas Land Company with another business partner, and earned a spot on the board of directors of the Associated Home Builders of the Greater East Bay. One of Trancas’s biggest projects was the building of the Bel Aire Shopping Center in Napa.

Like most of his fellow owners, McGah was a social networker, holding membership in a number of clubs and taking part in various charitable activities. He was quite active in his support of the Silesian Boys Club, sitting on the board with future partners Art Beckett, Charles Harney, Robert Osborne, Wallace Marsh, and Chet Soda.

McGah finally got his chance to own a pro football franchise in 1960 when he joined the group that landed an American Football Franchise for Oakland. That first season he didn’t make a lot of noise, leaving most of the running of the team to Soda. Late in the year, though, the owners fell to fighting amongst themselves. In January 1961, with reconciliation no longer possible, five of the owners sold their shares to McGah, Osborne, and Valley, and McGah emerged as team president.

The new, streamlined partnership didn’t solve the Raiders’ money woes, though. With the team playing in San Francisco, and playing horrendous ball to boot, attendance was sparse and financial losses were expected to mount into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Late in 1961, McGah and Valley gave the city of Oakland an ultimatum: build a stadium or they would sell to a group likely to move the team to another city. Osborne, caught unawares by the announcement, swore the team wouldn’t leave Oakland, but he had had a heart attack several months ago, and unwilling to lose even more money in 1962, decided to sell his piece of the team to McGah and Valley.

Though the city finally approved the construction of a new stadium and put the team up in temporary digs at tiny Frank Youell Field, the Raiders were even worse in 1962 and again, McGah and Valley made it known that they were looking for someone to take the team off their hands. A deal to move the Raiders to New Orleans came close to fruition, but the parties couldn’t agree on a sale price, and it fell through.

Unable to find buyers, McGah and Valley agreed to play the 1963 season in Oakland and made the most momentous decision in franchise history: hiring San Diego Chargers assistant coach Al Davis as head coach and general manager. Davis immediately turned the team’s fortunes around, earning Coach of the Year honors and remaking the team in his own image. While the next two seasons weren’t quite as successful as the first, Davis was regarded as an up-and-comer and in 1966 was named AFL commissioner as the league battled the NFL for supremacy.

When the leagues agreed to a merger, McGah and Valley welcomed Davis back, not as head coach and general manager, but as “managing general partner” with an annual salary and a small share of ownership that would grow on a yearly basis. McGah and Valley took a more passive role as Davis built the team into a perennial powerhouse.

Davis’s continued success pleased McGah, but his level of team control rankled Valley. In 1973, McGah signed Davis to a 20-year contract giving him dictatorial powers over the Raiders. Valley objected, saying he hadn’t been aware of the contract prior to its signing and sued to have it declared void. McGah responded by calling the suit “ill-founded and destructive” and added that “Wayne should know he can’t run the Raiders. He made a mess of it before.”

The suit dragged on for two years before the contract was upheld in court, though the judge did reduce the scope of powers accorded to Davis in the agreement. Valley, however, had had enough and sold his share back to McGah and Davis in 1976, less than a year before the team would win its first championship.

McGah, happy with the way the team was performing, and the profits derived therefrom, let Davis alone to run the Raiders his way, even when Davis set in motion plans to move the team to Los Angeles in 1980. While commissioner Pete Rozelle and the NFL spared no effort to prevent the move, McGah, a lifelong Bay Area man, backed up his fellow owner, and moved to Los Angeles himself when his team finally started play there in 1982.

By this time, though, he was in his 80s and his health was starting to fail. In January 1983, he had surgery for “blood clots and other internal problems” and on September 17, died at Cedars Sinai hospital after what was termed “a long illness,” just four months before his team would win its third Super Bowl title in Tampa. He was 84. He was survived by his son, Ed Jr., third wife Ruth, two grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.[1]

Eureka-Humboldt Standard
Los Angeles Times
Napa Valley Register
North Hollywood Valley Times
Oakland Tribune
Palm Springs Desert Sun
Sacramento Bee
San Bernardino County Sun
San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Examiner
Santa Cruz Sentinel
Santa Rosa Press-Democrat
United States Census Bureau


[1] The last mention of his second wife, Lucille, that I could find was in the 1940 census and the first mention of Ruth was in his obituary. Lucille died in 1982, so he might have remarried soon after or they may have divorced years ago. I could find nothing to corroborate any particular chain of events.

Harvey Binns

Harvey C. Binns
Born May 15, 1915(?), Rochester, Nevada
Died January 4, 1982, San Francisco, age 66(?)

Salesman, discount store executive, restaurateur, politician, private detective, bon vivant, and for a short while, Raider owner, Harvey Binns lived a full life. A born entrepreneur with the gift of gab he was the center of attention wherever he went and while he didn’t last long as a pro owner, he was a perfect fit for the spirit of the early AFL and it’s a shame he didn’t stick around to see it grow.

Binns’s early days are clothed in ambiguity. His parents and any siblings he might have had were never mentioned. For most of his life, stories about him that included his age suggested he was born in 1915, a date that matched his Social Security record. However, in the 1940 census, he listed his age as 27, indicating he was born in 1913 or thereabouts. Given his personality it’s not impossible that he knocked a couple of years off his age at some point, but who knows?

The story is also complicated by the possibility there were two Harvey Binnses running around the western United States with similar backgrounds. The 1940 census says Binns was living in Denver, but there were also newspaper notices of a Harvey Binns living in Salt Lake City around the same time. There’s also evidence that each (the same?) Binns had a child around then, with one child born in 1938, and the other in 1941, but later stories indicate he only had one child from that time. It’s possible that the other child died very young, but again, who knows? I’m proceeding on the assumption that the Salt Lake City Binns is a different person as there are no other indicators that this Binns ever lived there.

Binns probably spent most of his childhood in the Bay Area, attending Grant School in Oakland at one point. It appears that by 1938, he was married and living in San Francisco and had a child named Carolyn that year. His first wife was never mentioned in later stories about him, though Carolyn took the occasional bow. Soon after, he and his family moved to Denver, where Binns was a factory representative for the Remington Shaver Company. By 1943, they were back in Oakland, where his wife was a member of the Athens Athletic Club and a second daughter, Georgia, was born in 1945. He lived  in Honolulu for a while in the later part of the decade, but soon returned to the Bay Area, where he became vice president of a company called Movietime Products.

Sometime after the birth of Georgia, he and his first wife divorced, because in 1950, he married a second wife, Peggy. It was in 1952 that he first attracted wider notice in The City of San Francisco incident. The City of San Francisco was an express train plying the route between Chicago and San Francisco and in January 1952 a massive blizzard in the Sierra Nevada mountains blocked the tracks stranding the train without power near the Donner Pass. For several days more than 200 passengers and crew huddled together in the cold and dark with little food. Binns, one of the passengers, received attention for his role in setting up a “hospital” car where the sick and injured could be cared for until a rescue mission arrived.

The next year, his third daughter, Pamela, was born and that same year he and business partner George Talbott would start the venture that launched Binns’s entrepreneurial career. They formed Associated Government Employees (AGE), a chain of membership-only discount retail outlets located in Oakland and Vallejo, with membership limited to current and former government employees. The company’s revenues would enable Binns to pursue all sorts of additional opportunities. These included a clothing store and other retail shops in the swankier districts of Honolulu, a location visited often by the Binnses.

Life was good and getting better for Binns when, in June 1956, tragedy struck. Georgia and Pamela had accompanied their aunt and some family friends on a boat trip up the San Joaquin river when the boat capsized far from shore. One of the women aboard managed to grab two-year-old Pamela and make it to shore, but Georgia, and three others, including her aunt, drowned at the scene. Authorities blamed high waters and an overloaded boat for the mishap.

The next year Binns started another big venture, one that would regularly put his name in the social pages, The House of Harvey. This was a restaurant he built near the Oakland Airport, next to the AGE store and from the beginning he designed it to be the go-to place for high rolling executives and their families, and possibly, their mistresses. Boasting the best of fine dining, drinking, dancing, and luxury décor, including a crème de menthe fountain behind the bar, the restaurant gave Binns a chance to exhibit his natural showmanship and provided a focus for his interest in professional sports. The House of Harvey became a destination for 49er boosters and quarterback YA Tittle was regularly in attendance. Binns purchased blocks of game tickets that he sold on the premises and organized bus trips to games, complete with pregame meals and drinks.

Now with a fair amount of disposable income, he indulged even more expensive hobbies, such as his purchase of a private plane, participating in events like the Oakland-to-Reno and Hayward-to-Las Vegas air races. He also made regular trips to Hawaii with Peggy to enjoy vacation time and tend to his businesses there.

It was only natural that he found himself part of the group that would land an American Football League franchise in Oakland.  At first it seemed like a perfect fit for him, but he soon found himself at odds with several of the other owners, especially those who were building contractors, like Chet Soda, who were used to running on lean margins and a careful accounting of every expense. Arguing that a football team was entertainment and couldn’t be operated “with a slide rule and an adding machine” Binns bowed out on April 27, selling his share back to the other seven owners.

Still, he recognized the value of the team to the Oakland community and was a stalwart backer while continuing to maintain his friendship with Tittle and supporting both the 49ers and Giants across the bay. It also didn’t stop him from trying to unload a block of Raider tickets at below their printed value in December, earning the ire of his former partners, especially Soda.

All of this activity came at the apparent expense of his domestic life. In October 1960, Peggy filed for divorce, citing cruelty and asking for custody of Pamela with child support. They would reconcile over the next few months and by the next summer were vacationing in Hawaii again. Over the next couple of years he concentrated mostly on his businesses, though he kept his hand in sports matters, acting as an unofficial negotiator for the Raiders when they tried, unsuccessfully, to sign former 49er receiver RC “Alley Oop” Owens to a contract.

In March 1963, having achieved a high profile, he announced a bid to run for a seat on the Oakland City Council against incumbent Harry Lange. Running on a platform of fiscal conservatism and opposition to what he perceived as the council’s “catering to minority groups and people who don’t pay taxes,” he finished a strong second in the primary race in April, forcing a run-off in May. Binns was not above a little grandstanding, accusing the Oakland Tribune of sabotaging his campaign and insisting, unsuccessfully, on a televised debate. Lange, for his part, accused Binns of dirty tricks but prevailed in a close race.

Just days after the loss, Binns suffered a second blow. On the morning of May 23, The House of Harvey caught fire, sustaining extensive damage. Two employees who were prepping the restaurant for the day’s business escaped unharmed. It was a total loss and while there was some talk of rebuilding, Binns walked away from it in the end. During the next couple of years, he continued as president of AGE and expanded his operations in Honolulu, leasing an apartment at the posh Ilikai Hotel and opening a “liquor, drug, and gourmet” shop in its lobby.

In 1965 his marriage to Peggy fell apart again, this time for good. Filing for divorce in February, citing mental cruelty grounds, Peggy got custody of Pamela and child support in the settlement. Court documents said Binns was making $150,000 a year at the time.

In March he announced his intention to run for mayor, challenging incumbent John Houlihan, but in April, Binns was diagnosed with an ulcer and had to withdraw. In May he made plans to marry a third time, to Ruby Rogers, a woman fifteen years his junior, with ceremonies in both Honolulu and Las Vegas and a honeymoon in Hong Kong to follow but, probably for health reasons, these plans were postponed until next year.

In early 1966, he may or may not have had surgery that was life-threatening—the reports are contradictory—but he did marry Ruby in February in Honolulu and the following year he made another bid for a city council seat, this time challenging council veteran Dan Marovich. In a bitterly contentious campaign, Binns finished a close second in the primary forcing a run-off. In the run-off election he came out on top, winning by a 3-to-2 margin.

He quickly became the gadfly of the group, opposing any and all tax measures unless the money was to be used to pay police and firefighters. He took on anti-poverty efforts, suggesting that much of the money was going to the undeserving and arguing that whites were the real minority in Oakland. He also opposed measures banning the use of mace by police and prohibiting officers from shooting at fleeing theft suspects.

He continued to have health problems during this time, entering the hospital for a kidney infection in 1968, but felt well enough in August to go in with Oakland Athletics outfielder Rick Monday on a new restaurant, called The Loop, built near the former site of The House of Harvey. He claimed to be a silent partner in the deal and despite skepticism in the press didn’t speak much about it afterward. Late in the year, he again announced he would run for mayor in 1969, but later withdrew, saying he wanted to be a “team player.”

In 1970 he and Ruby divorced due to irreconcilable differences. He wouldn’t marry again. That year he added another plank to his shingle, offering his professional services as a business consultant. Coming up for re-election in 1971, he was on the ballot with nine challengers mostly from the left. Binns survived the primary but lost narrowly in the run-off to attorney John Sutter who was running on an environmentalist platform.

In a strange echo from 1963, just before the election, Binns’s house caught fire in the early hours of the morning. He and an unidentified male house guest escaped unharmed, but the house was a total loss. Having accepted the loss of his home and his electoral defeat graciously, he went on to run for a seat on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors in 1972 but finished a very distant third in the primary. Two years later he tried for a spot on the Bay Area Rapid Transit board of directors but again failed to generate much support and his political ambitions were at an end.

For the rest of the decade he tended to his business interests while taking a job as a private investigator  in San Francisco, working as a regional director for the John T. Lynch Company, a legal and security firm based out of Los Angeles.

On January 4, 1982, he died at the age of 66 “after a long illness,” survived by his daughters Carolyn and Pamela.

Bakersfield Californian
Denver Post
Hayward Daily Review
Honolulu Advertiser
Honolulu Star-Bulletin
Oakland Tribune
Reno Gazette-Journal
Sacramento Bee
San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Examiner
United States Census Bureau

February 8, 1961

In Prescott Sullivan’s column in today’s San Francisco Examiner, former Raider co-owner and general manager Chet Soda was quoted as saying his fellow owners hadn’t lost quite as much money as had been originally reported. Back in December, there were stories saying the owners had lost about $400,000, or $50,000 per owner. Soda explained that the figure didn’t take into account typical business practices, that his own losses were closer to $15,000, and that his fellow owners’ losses were probably in that neighborhood, too.

“When losses are written off as a tax deduction against other income,” he said, “none of us will be hurt too much.”

Elsewhere, it wasn’t likely that the Raiders were going to meet the 49ers on the gridiron any too soon, but the teams announced they would take their rivalry to the hardwood on the 21st at a court in Pleasanton. Further details were unavailable at the moment.

Oakland Tribune
San Francisco Examiner

Art Beckett

Arthur Thomas Beckett
Born May 23, 1894, Sacramento
Died May 19, 1978, Walnut Creek, California, age 83

Arthur E. Beckett (c.1869-1955), born in Keatsville, Missouri, moved to Bay Area around 1890. Worked in oil industry, then became harbormaster for Port of San Francisco around 1904 and stayed there until his retirement in 1939.

Marguerite Beckett (c.1875-1936)

Roy (1895-1940)
Marguerite (c.1899-1976)

Gertrude (born c.1896-1984)
married 1916

Jean (1916-1979)
Beverly (1917-1981)
Thomas (c.1919-1921)
John (c.1923-?)

Of the original Raider owners, Art Beckett had the shortest tenure and the lowest public profile. He made his money building housing developments and later graduated into factories and shopping centers. Like the others, Beckett was a joiner and he and his wife were active in several local social and charitable organizations. He was one of the original eight, but he never made any public appearances with the other owners and sold his share less than a month into the venture for reasons that were not discussed in the papers. He was already near retirement age at the time so he largely disappeared from public view only a few years afterward and at the time of his death no mention was made of his connection to the team.


May 23 – Born to Arthur E. and Marguerite in Sacramento. (Sacramento Bee)


Family is living in Oakland.

May 18 – One of three people reporting the theft of a bicycle to Oakland police. (Oakland Tribune)


February 24 – Marriage license granted to Arthur T Beckett, 21, and Gertrude E Burt, 19. (Oakland Tribune)

November 4 – Daughter Jean born. (Oakland Tribune)


October – Granted exemption from military draft “on grounds of dependency,” presumably meaning he was providing for his wife and child. (Oakland Tribune)


April 17 – Apparently, the names of hotel guests were a matter of public record as Beckett’s arrival at the Kennebec in Long Beach was noted with that of hundreds of other arrivals. (Long Beach Telegram and Daily News)


August 24 – The family suffered a horrible tragedy when two-year-old Thomas was found dead, strangled by the ropes of a porch swing. His mother found him several minutes after the event. (Oakland Tribune)


December 15 – “A.T. Beckett of Oakland visited here this week.” (Fresno Morning Republican)


May 12 – Received a permit to build a $9,000 home at 605 Hillgirt Circle. (Oakland Tribune)

June 11 – Fishing for rainbow trout on the Feather River near Tobin. (Oakland Tribune)

July 1 – Selling a house at 601 Blair Ave. (Oakland Tribune)

July 28 – Hit with a bill from the city in the amount of $30.63 for being delinquent in payment for “maintenance and furnishing electrical services” at one of his properties. (Oakland Tribune)

December 9 – Mother, Marguerite, died in Oakland. (Oakland Tribune)


March 14 – Selling a house at 605 Blair Ave. (Oakland Tribune)

April 17 – Selling a house at 669 Blair Ave. (Oakland Tribune)

May 23 – Received a permit to build an $8,000 factory at 3001 San Pablo Avenue. (Oakland Tribune)

July 30 – Fishing up in Tobin again. (Sacramento Bee)

August 29 – Selling a bunch of houses in Chimes Terrace. (Oakland Tribune)

November 24 – Received a permit to build a $13,500 print shop at 579 21st St. (Oakland Tribune)


May – Contractor in charge of the modernization of the Borland Building at 12th and Broadway in Oakland (Oakland Tribune)

May 29 – Selling a house at 3651 Delmont Ave. (Oakland Tribune)

July 15 – Fishing for trout on the Truckee River. (Oakland Tribune)

August 28 – Selling $12,500 home at 225 Scenic Avenue. (Oakland Tribune)

November 3 – Obtained permits to build 13 new houses in La Chateauhurst neighborhood in San Leandro. (Oakland Tribune)


February 8 – Awarded $31,000 contract to build hospital annex in Siskiyou County. (Yreka Siskiyou Daily News)

February 27 – Brother Roy died in Portland, Oregon. (San Francisco Examiner)

August 11 – Selling houses in Briarwood Gardens, “Oakland’s Most Centrally Located Suburb”. (Oakland Tribune)

September 22 – Attending a “real old Southern dinner” at the Children’s Hospital of the East Bay. (Oakland Tribune)

November 3 – Awarded $55,000 contract by US War Department to build warehouse at Hamilton Field in Novato. (Santa Rosa Republican)


April 10 – Awarded $7,400 contract by US War Department to build post office at Hamilton Field. (Oakland Tribune)

May 24 – Daughter Jean married William Sullivan of San Francisco. (Oakland Tribune)

August 19 – In charge of million-dollar project to build National Automotive Fibres factory in San Leandro. (Oakland Tribune)


March 20 – First mention of Beckett and Federighi contracting partnership in conjunction with a project to build 420 homes in San Leandro for defense workers. (Oakland Tribune)


March 20 – Daughter Beverly married Donald Riding. (Oakland Tribune)

November 2 – Beckett and Federighi given permit by El Cerrito to build 22 houses. (Oakland Tribune)


September 17 – Racing aboard the Pajara in the Big Boat class at the St Francis Yacht Club Regatta on San Francisco Bay. (Oakland Tribune)


Built the State Theater on Broadway. (Oakland Tribune)

Formed the Pacific States Mortgage Company with Federighi this year or earlier.


November 18 – John announced engagement to Suzanne Roeth, Oakland, and “member of one of the older families in the East Bay.” (Oakland Tribune)


January – On a Pacific cruise with Gertrude. (Oakland Tribune)


March 29 – Beckett and Federighi bought the Oakland Stadium auto racing track for $400,000. (Oakland Tribune)


November – Name among many in ad supporting ballot measure to provide private elementary schools with the same tax exemptions afforded to public schools. (Oakland Tribune)


November – Along with Federighi, part of the group building the $25 million Bay Fair Shopping Center in San Leandro. (Oakland Tribune)

December 3 – On the board of directors of the “non-sectarian” Salesian Boys Club in Oakland that incorporated on this date. Other members of the board included future Raider owners Wallace Marsh, Robert Osborne, Ed McGah, and Salesian Club president Chet Soda. (Oakland Tribune)


October 27 – Father, Arthur E., died at the age of 86 in Oakland after one-week illness. (Oakland Tribune)


August 18 – Provided a buckboard from his Moraga ranch to help dress the scene at a reception ballroom for the Republican National Convention in San Francisco. (Oakland Tribune)


December 18 – One of 50 victims in a stock fraud racket perpetrated by convicted swindler, John Bunce of Orinda. (Oakland Tribune)


June 12 – Shot an 83—20 strokes off the pace—at Orinda Country Club in the first round of the Athenian-Nile Club golf tournament. (Oakland Tribune)

June 19 – Finished the Athenian-Nile Club golf tournament well back in the pack with a 163 for the two rounds. (Oakland Tribune)

August 4 – Part of a syndicate that submitted the winning bid for the “historic” Quercus ranch in Lakeport. The syndicate included Fred Federighi and Ed McGah and the bid was for $855,000. The group planned to turn the property over to the construction of high-priced homes and shopping centers. (Sacramento Bee)

October 28 – Just back from a goose hunting expedition in Alberta. (Oakland Tribune)


January 27 – Named as member of group petitioning the American Football League for a team in Oakland. (Oakland Tribune)

January 30 – Group awarded American Football League franchise. Other members were Harvey Binns, Don Blessing, Charles Harney, Ed McGah, Robert Osborne, Chet Soda, and Wayne Valley. (Oakland Tribune)

February 22 – “Stepped down” from his position as one of the Oakland team’s owners for unspecified reasons. (Oakland Tribune)


October 6 – Selling a house at 4205 Terrace St. (San Francisco Examiner)

October 29 – One of several partners in a new bank, the Silverado State Bank, in Napa. Other partners included Ed McGah Sr., and Jr. (Napa Valley Register)


July 17 – He and Federighi sold the Pacific States Mortgage company to Clinton DeWitt, Jr. (San Francisco Examiner)


Beckett and Federighi found themselves on the wrong end of a judgment by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals regarding a tax arrangement involving their contracting business and a company called Maxwell Hardware. The essential facts seem to be these: Maxwell Hardware sold a piece of their business to Beckett and Federighi, who hoped Maxwell’s net losses in excess of a million dollars would offset their development profits, eliminating their tax liability on those profits. The court found, so far as I understand it, that the businesses did not integrate sufficiently to allow them to be treated as a single entity for tax computation purposes. But I’m neither a tax lawyer, nor an accountant, so I could be far wrong here.


March 13 – He and Gertrude celebrated 50th wedding anniversary. (Oakland Tribune)


May 19 – Died in Walnut Creek at the age of 83. According to his obituary, he left behind eight grandchildren and was a member of the Eagles, the Orinda Country Club, and the Order of St. Hubertus. (San Francisco Examiner)


January 15, 1961

It took a seven-hour meeting and intervention by AFL commissioner Joe Foss, but the long-rumored ownership shakeup finally happened.

The day started with the eight owners getting together to try and resolve the mutual antipathies that had built up among the various group cliques. Three hours in and with nothing settled, Foss arrived in person with a pair of league lawyers.

As Foss explained, behavior at recent league meetings had shown that “all was not well in Oakland. It was decided then that I should come to Oakland for the meeting. I was authorized to take away the franchise if the problems couldn’t be worked out. I got here after the men had been in session for three hours and had reached an impasse.” Everyone agreed they wanted to keep the team in Oakland, but Foss said, “they just couldn’t get along and it was obvious one group had to sell out. For the next four hours, I and the league attorneys listened to both sides of the argument and finally a sale agreement was reached. Everyone in the league feels that Oakland can become one of our great franchises.”

It was decided that Don Blessing, Charles Harney, Roger Lapham, Wallace Marsh, and Chet Soda would sell their shares to Ed McGah, Robert Osborne, and Wayne Valley. McGah would retain his position as president, with the vice presidency going to Valley, and Osborne assuming the treasurer role.

Afterward, Valley said, “The three of us have wanted all along to proceed in Oakland. We are all East Bay businessmen and we feel that we can succeed.” Asked about rumors that the team would pursue austerity, he added, “We want to win, and we are businessmen, and within those confines we shall move forward. We have lots of things to look into and personnel to evaluate. This is not to say that we are unhappy with the people we now have.”

One of those people was Eddie Erdelatz who, responding to the news that the team would stay in town, said it was “one of the greatest things to happen to the city of Oakland. We will make every effort to field a team Oakland can be proud of next season. The American League has shown what it can do on the field. Our fans were pleased with the wide-open style of play and I feel we’ll have much larger crowds next year.”

Oakland Tribune
San Francisco Chronicle


January 14, 1961

A report appeared in Chicago newspapers that White Sox owner Bill Veeck had purchased the Raiders for $175,000 and planned to move them to Comiskey Park. All parties hastened to refute the story.

Veeck said the tale was “absolutely not true. I have not talked with officials of the Oakland team or any other professional football club and I don’t contemplate doing so. We would like to have a tenant for Comiskey Park in the offseason, but I wouldn’t go so far as buying Oakland to get one.”

Wayne Valley said, “We don’t know anything about that. It’s the first I’ve heard of it and it’s completely untrue. It’s a shot in the dark. If there were anything to it, I would be the first one to know.”

Chet Soda said the report was a “complete surprise to him,” though co-owner Roger Lapham said that Soda had responded positively to the rumor when he first heard it and Lapham added for himself, “You can quote me: the Raiders are for sale at the proper price.”

All this served to highlight news of continued dissension amongst the owners. Lapham said, “We’ll either resolve our problems among ourselves or sell the club before the end of the month.”

Newly installed team president Ed McGah acknowledged there were disagreements but thought they “should see it through at least the second year, as we agreed.” He admitted some of the owners wanted to sell out and that other owners had offered to buy them out, but in any event the team would stay in Oakland. “Bob Osborne, for one, is too civic-minded to let (a move) happen and our pre-incorporation articles state that no one can sell any part of his stock without the unanimous approval of the other owners.”

Hayward Daily Review
Oakland Tribune
San Francisco Chronicle

January 3, 1961

Freed from the constraints of the team presidency, Chet Soda waxed at some length on what he thought the team needed going forward. The Raiders need a “one hundred percent austerity program for the next two years,” he said. “They need a tight, money-conscious operation to survive. People keep comparing our club to rich, well-established National League clubs that have the reputation of going first class, but this isn’t an organization that has been operating in the black for years, so the situation is different. Some NFL clubs spend as much as $150,000 on scouting future prospects, but they are spending tax money so they aren’t hurting. With the Raiders, everything is an expenditure because new clubs just don’t make money right off the bat. If you cut a corner here, another there, it adds up, and when it starts adding up, it cuts down on red ink.”

Referring to the next general manager, he said, “What is needed is a real sharp businessman, first and foremost. If you can get such a man who also has had some experience in pro football, so much the better. However, there aren’t too many guys available with the right qualifications.”

While the team continued the search for a new GM, they learned that their first-round draft pick, tackle Joe Rutgens of Illinois, had signed with the Redskins.

Hayward Daily Review
San Francisco Chronicle

January 2, 1961

In news that was not unexpected, Chet Soda stepped down as president and general manager of the Raiders today. “I have contemplated this move for some time,” he said. “I expect to stay with the organization and have no immediate plans to sell my holdings in the Raiders.” He said he had twice tried to resign earlier, but the board of directors had talked him out of it each time. There was no comment from the other owners and both Robert Osborne and Wayne Valley said they hadn’t heard of his decision until reporters tried to reach them for comment. “I haven’t been to my office in three days,” said Osborne. “The letter of resignation could be in the mail on my desk.”

No successor was named, but Eddie Erdelatz quickly removed himself from the running. “I am not old enough to quit coaching,” he said. “I don’t think any man could handle both the coaching and the business end of the Raiders. It is too much for one man in a new organization. I want it known that I’m still working for the Raiders and intend to continue as coach.” With no word from the owners and Erdelatz’s lack of interest, assistant general manager Bud Hastings was thought to have the inside track for the position.

Hayward Daily Review
Oakland Tribune
San Francisco Chronicle