A former college football teammate of Sen. George Allen's has confirmed details of a controversial hunting trip in the early 1970s, during which Allen is alleged to have placed a severed deer head in a mailbox that he believed to be owned by a black family.
On Sunday, Salon reported that Ken Shelton, a former teammate of Allen's who works as a radiologist in North Carolina, claimed that Allen asked after a hunting trip for directions to a neighborhood populated by black residents. Shelton said Allen then drove him and another teammate, Billy Lanahan, to the area and put the severed head of a deer they had killed into a mailbox.
George Beam, a nuclear engineering company manager who lives outside Lynchburg, Va., now says he can confirm parts of that story. Beam, who played football with Allen, said he remembers Lanahan, who is now deceased, describing the hunting trip with Allen and Shelton.
"We were sitting around drinking beer," Beam said in an interview Wednesday morning, recalling the conversation with Lanahan. "Billy said, 'George and Kenny and I went hunting, and we decided at some time to cut off this deer head and stick it in a mailbox.'"
Beam said he does not remember Lanahan saying that the incident was racially motivated. He also said Lanahan did not specify who had the idea to put the deer head in the mailbox.
In a press appearance Monday, Allen dismissed Shelton's claims as "absolutely false," "pure fabrication" and "nonsense," according to the Washington Post.
Beam said he was motivated to speak to a reporter about his memory because of recent attacks against Shelton's integrity by people close to the Allen campaign, a group that includes several former teammates. "I knew Kenny Shelton, and his reputation in my opinion is irreproachable," Beam said Wednesday morning, adding that he had not spoken to Shelton in decades.
Lanahan died this year at the age of 53. His aunt, Martha Belle Chisholm, told Salon last week that Lanahan's family owned land near Bumpass, Va., about 50 miles east of the University of Virginia campus, where Allen played football in college. Chisholm said she remembered Lanahan speaking highly of Allen.
Beam played as a quarterback and a wide receiver on the University of Virginia football team during the 1972, '73 and '74 seasons. Beam said he lived with Lanahan between 1971 and 1973. Beam described himself as a political independent who leans "more Republican than anything," and has not yet decided whether to vote for Allen in November.
In college, Beam said, he did not know Allen well, and had no memory of Allen using racial epithets. "He was a transplant from California," said Beam, who grew up in Clarkesville, Va. "I remember him appearing to act more Southern than people who had grown up in the South."
In the Post Wednesday, Chris LaCivita, a consultant for the Allen campaign, suggested that Shelton had fabricated the deer head story because a similar incident had been reported in North Carolina in January. Shelton said he had never heard of the North Carolina report, and called LaCivita's allegation ridiculous.
One other former teammate, George Korte, was quoted in an Allen campaign press release directly attacking Shelton, saying the radiologist had "deep-rooted problems with self identity." Korte offered nothing to back up his charge beyond a different memory of Allen's behavior.
On Sunday, Salon reported that two other teammates, who asked that their names be withheld for fear of retribution from the Allen camp, also remembered Allen using a racial epithet and displaying racist attitudes. Since then, two more acquaintances of Allen's have come forward to claim that they heard Allen use racial epithets to describe blacks. On Wednesday, the New York Times reported that Ellen G. Hawkins, an active Democrat and housewife in Virginia, remembers Allen badmouthing a black football player and using a racial slur more than once at a party in 1976. Allen's campaign manager called this account "another false accusation."
The Times, the Post and the New Republic have also reported that Christopher Taylor, an anthropology professor in Alabama who identifies himself as a Democrat, remembers Allen using the word "nigger" to describe black residents near his Virginia home in the early 1980s. The Allen campaign charged that Taylor was lying. "This guy is not credible period," said LaCivita, in an interview with the Post.