During yesterday’s practice, I was approached on the sidelines by a gentleman seeking a roster. I was standing with a member of the public relations staff, who handed him the paper, and he studied it intently for a few minutes.
When he was done, he looked up and said, “Y’know, I helped build this place.”
I beg your pardon?
“It was a team, and we were an electric contract,” he went on. “B&H Electric Company, and the best of my recollection it was in the early ’80’s when we finished the project.”
As it turned out, R.B. “Jess” Hendrix is not only one of the people that helped build Redskins Park, but he’s also a fixture of Redskins lore. By his own admission, he’s good friends with practically every meaningful Redskin in the last few decades.
But let’s start at the beginning of his Redskins tale. How did he win the bid?
“I was very good friends with Mr. [Jack Kent] Cooke. It was competitively bid and then after it was bid, Mr. Cooke Sr. decided he would negotiate everything and the bid cost too much.”
As a result, the blueprint plans had to be tweaked:
“That big hill over there? We were going to set up a way for them to do their exercise by going up and down the hill,” he said, gesturing to this corner of the fields. “But we had to put in some additional steps and a rope system, and when we got to price it, we decided not to do it.”
Hendrix also remembered that there was no cafeteria in the original facility, but basketball court was modified to include one.
Then there was that time in the late 1980s when the creek in the back part of the property overflowed and flooded the fields. “It did a lot of damage,” he recalled.
The creek is located in the woods behind the fields:
Hendrix has enjoyed watching the NFL’s rise, and spoke very glowingly about the direction that’s it’s gone.
“I’m a fan of the NFL,” he said. “I will always be a Redskins fan, but I don’t get as involved and emotional as I did–Christ, I used to get all upset when they lost.”
He also informed me that he had gone to his 34th Super Bowl in February. “I still have my ticket from my first, Super Bowl III in Miami,” he said. “It was the Jets and the Colts, and Joe Namath beat the Colts.”
“My ticket cost $6. This year, my ticket cost $1,200,” he added with a laugh.
In 34 years of watching the world’s biggest football games, I asked him what his favorite one was, to which he replied, matter-of-factly, “Probably the ones the Redskins won.”
Over the years, Hendrix has befriended both the previous Redskins owner, Jack Kent Cooke, and the current owner Daniel Snyder.
He still remembers the first day that he met Snyder down on the field at the Ashburn facilities.
“I was one of the first people to meet Dan Snyder,” he remembered. “I was out here, and he got right up close to me and stuck his hand out and said ‘Dan Snyder.’ I said ‘Jess Hendrix.'”
After having told me how he was high school friends with Texans owner Bob McNair, good friends with Jack Kent Cooke, Dan Snyder, Bobby Mitchell, Joe Gibbs, and others, I had to know: how did he make these kinds of friends?
“Y’know, when you get introduced with somebody and make friends with them, if you want to generate that friendship, you speak to them every time you see them,” he said. “I mean if you don’t want to have a friendship, you get yourself introduced and then don’t talk any more.”
That sounds like a pretty simple philosophy.
By this point in our conversation, the Redskins had begun to scrimmage on the far field. Hendrix’s nephew and his nephew’s family beckoned for him to follow them out onto the field to get a better view, so I knew I had to let my new friend go.
But just one more question before he left: how does his creation look nearly 30 years later?
“Well, we were an electric contract,” he said slowly. “It was a team of about six core contractors and we we’re selected as one of them.”
“Looks like it held up pretty good.”
If I get the opportunity to see Jess again, I’ll be sure to speak with him. If you get to meet Jess in the crowds one day, I recommend that you do too.
Tags: Jack Kent Cooke, Jess Hendrix, redskins park, washington redskins
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