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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Spokane: Washington State football coach who led Cougars to Rose Bowl win accused of evading draft

UPDATED: Wed., June 19, 2019

William “Lone Star” Dietz, former Washington State College football coach turned famous movie actor, was in Spokane to stand trial on a shocking charge: being a wartime “slacker.”

Specifically, he was charged with registering falsely for the draft and falsifying his draft questionnaire.

Dietz gave a long and emotional interview to the Spokane Daily Chronicle in which he scoffed at the idea that he had tried to evade the draft. At the time, he was working as the football coach of the U.S. Marines football team at Mare Island, California.

“If I had wanted to evade the draft all I had to do was to go to the shipyards in San Francisco, get a $4-a-day job and secure my exemption,” Dietz said.

Instead, he felt that his place was at the head of a highly specialized business – the business of coaching a football team.

He claimed nobody can deny that the “athletics of the war period were an important factor in the winning of the war,’” and that “show business was an important factor likewise, and I was an expert at both.”

He claimed someone on his Spokane draft board was “very bitter.” But he said the real reason he was being prosecuted was he was just too successful.

“It’s all right to have success,” he said. “But it’s a different matter to have continued success, which has been my lot. You are bound to make enemies as you climb the ladder.”

Dietz was accompanied by Mrs. Leanna Lewis, who the government claimed was Dietz’s mother. Mrs. Lewis, through tears, denied she was his mother and added, “I never thought all of these things would come out.”

Neither of them explained why it mattered whether Mrs. Lewis was his mother. It would all come out at the trial.

Dietz coached Washington State to a Rose Bowl victory in 1916.

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