Nine Point Harry and The Kingfish

As any archivist will tell you, one of the joys of our profession is that while looking for information to answer research questions, we frequently uncover entirely unrelated material that proves far more interesting than what we are actually seeking. I recently experienced this when I came across a bundle of clippings about Harry Costello, Law 1913, while searching for football statistics in the University Archives. 

Harry CostelloI certainly recognized Costello’s name, as he is considered by many to be Georgetown’s greatest football player, despite weighing only 138 lbs. and standing only 5 feet 7 inches tall. Legendary coach Glenn Scobey “Pop” Warner noted of him that for his inches, he was one of the greatest players that ever lived. Known to classmates as Nine Point Harry, Costello was the Georgetown quarterback for three seasons. In addition to his passing abilities, he was an outstanding dropkicker and punter.  

But what I learned from the clippings was that Costello was also renowned for telling colorful stories about his playing days and subsequent career as a coach and reporter. One of his favorites was an account of waking up in a room at the Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C. and discovering Huey P. Long in the neighboring bed. Long, who referred to himself as The Kingfish, served as U.S. Senator from Louisiana from 1932 to 1935. He and Costello bore a physical resemblance and a taxi driver who picked Costello up at the Occidental restaurant after a night of drinking mistook his passenger for Long and delivered him to the Mayflower where staff repeated the mistake and took him to “his” suite. After presumably awkward introductions that morning, Costello used chairs in the hotel suite to demonstrate various football offensive and defensive formations to the Senator. While it is obviously impossible to authenticate this story (and with a story this good, I really didn’t even want to try), it is perhaps telling that Costello became director of publicity for the Athletics Department at Louisiana State University in 1935, an appointment Costello was given to say was secured by Long. 

For comparison, an image of Long can be viewed in the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.

--Lynn Conway, University Archivist

July 21, 2017