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Tennis official pushed over line

Potential legal fallout may have led Perry Hines to end his life


By all accounts, Perry Hines was leading a contented life.

Hines, long retired from a career working in the Fred Meyer warehouse, was the assignor of officials for the USTA's Pacific Northwest section, a mostly volunteer position he loved. The modest Southeast Portland home in which he lived was paid for. Single and with no children, he was financially and emotionally secure, well-respected in the local tennis community and beloved by family and friends. One of the country's most-reputed umpires and linesmen, he had worked more than 20 U.S. Opens.

On Sept. 13, two days after being named along with the USTA in a $5.6 million lawsuit alleging gender discrimination, Hines drove into the Columbia River Gorge, pulled out a gun and ended his life.

He was 63.

"I miss him," says Lake Oswego's Corinne Mitchell, who worked under Hines as a tennis official for the past three years. "He had so much more to give."

"The (Pacific Northwest Tennis Association) has lost a good person," says Denise Alexander, a former Portlander who worked under Hines for four years. "And I've lost a very good friend."

•••

The plaintiff in the lawsuit filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court is Laura Mattson, another of those who worked under Hines as a referee, umpire and linesman in recent years.

In the suit, directed at the USTA, PNTA, Hines and PNTA chairman of officials Dennis Kviz, Mattson alleges she was discriminated against as a woman in terms of assignment of duties during events she worked.HINES

The suit claims the USTA "has a clandestine policy of discriminating against female umpires and referees" despite having a written policy forbidding gender discrimination when assigning officials to events.

Mattson declined comment for this story, referring questions to her attorney, Mitra Shahri. Mattson seeks $5 million from the USTA in punitive damages, plus an amount not to exceed $500,000 for noneconomic compensatory damages and at least $100,000 "to offset income tax consequences."

"The state of Oregon will take 70 percent of that amount in accordance with Oregon law, and 40 to 50 percent of the remainder will go to taxes," Shahri wrote in an email. "So this amount is intended to punish and deter (the USTA) from discriminating in the future."

Shahri said she doesn't expect a court date to be set for another eight to 10 months.

•••

Hines was the second of three children raised in a middle-class home in Southeast Portland. Sister Jackie, 64, lives in Beaverton. Brother Rick, 57, lives in Milwaukie. All three attended Franklin High. Perry went on to get a bachelor's degree in history at Portland State.

Shortly after college, Hines purchased a house on Southeast 47th Avenue and Clinton Street previously owned by Jackie. He lived there for nearly 40 years until his death.

Before Hines bought the house, he procured a job driving a forklift in the Fred Meyer warehouse.

He stayed at the position for three decades before retiring with benefits at age 51.

"He could have been a supervisor, but he didn't want that responsibility," says Jeff Carey, who knew Hines for 35 years and worked with him at Fred Meyer for most of his time there. "He liked doing his own thing."

Carey, a former sectional chairman of officials and Northern Oregon area vice president for the PNTA, was also a national-caliber umpire and linesmen who worked 21 U.S. Opens before retiring from officiating in 2001. In the late 1970s, Carey was instrumental in the PNTA's implementation of an organized program for officials' certification.

"One day, I put up a notice about a meeting above the time clock at Fred Meyer, and all of a sudden, Perry showed up," Carey says. "He was always so shy, I was a little surprised to see him there, wanting to be an official."

Indeed, Perry was an introvert.

"He was very shy and quiet," his sister says.

"He was very private," brother Rick adds. "He had a couple of girlfriends, but he never came close to getting married or having a serious relationship. He wanted to do his own thing."

"It took a long time to get to know him," Carey says, "but he was absolutely one of the best people you'd ever want to meet. Extremely intelligent, great wit. He had the ability to make the right comment at just the right time to poke holes in some pompous person's balloon."

Hines became a tennis official, and then some, first working the Portland area, then going national.

"Perry worked his way up quickly," Carey says. "He was a great umpire — after a while, one of the best in the world. He was such a tight service line operator, he was selected to do a couple of Davis Cup ties. He became one of those guys everybody knew could do a great job."

Funny, because though he always loved sports, Hines wasn't much of a tennis player.

"I could beat him at tennis, and I'm terrible," says Roger Kruse, who met Hines when they were freshmen in high school, beginning a close friendship that lasted 49 years.

But Hines could call lines and work a chair, in part, perhaps, due to his personality.

"He's a perfectionist," Rick Hines says. "Calling lines, you have to be a perfectionist. Maybe it was something he was destined to do."

"He had the perfect temperament for the job," Jackie Hines says. "He didn't want to be in the spotlight; he just wanted to be a person on the sidelines."

Sometimes that was hard to do at the national pro events. When Hines began working the U.S. Open in the mid-1980s, he stepped into the middle of a pressure-cooker. That part of it wasn't something he particularly enjoyed, but he was good, and he was honorable and principled by nature.

"He had the most integrity of anybody I've ever known," Rick Hines says. "He didn't do anything wrong with his life. If he couldn't say something good, he'd say nothing. He did everything right. He was my hero. I looked up to him tremendously."

Perry Hines' integrity served him well when facing the wrath of the sport's ill-tempered.

"Perry liked (John) McEnroe and (Ilie) Nastase," Rick Hines says. "The chance to umpire them was an awesome thing for him.

"Somebody got in his face one time, and he retired for a short period of time. He told me, 'Do I really want these guys in my face?' But he came back because he loved it. He looked forward to doing (the Open) every year."

For years, Hines and Carey worked the national tennis circuit.

"We roomed together all over the country," Carey says. "He was the best roommate you could ever have, even if I had to put up with his music (interests). He was a major Deadhead who had trekked around the country following the Grateful Dead when he was younger."

While working at Fred Meyer, Hines saved up vacation time to work national tournaments.

"The U.S. Open was his favorite," Jackie Hines says. "He loved going back to New York."

"He always brought me back a memento," Rick Hines says. "I still have the first one from 1986, a duffel bag."

Often, Kruse accompanied Hines on his tennis junkets.

"We went back a couple of years and had a great time in New York," Kruse says. "Once, I went to Fiji, and he came over from (New York) and we toured New Zealand for a month."

•••

Hines eventually assumed several positions within the PNTA. He served as head of the umpires committee, was chairman of officials for several years, and finished as assignor of officials. In recent years, the USTA hired him as a national trainer and evaluator. The position was paid, but not highly so. He continued to work locally as assignor of officials, too.

"He would make like $20 a tournament for a ridiculous amount of work," Jackie Hines says.

"It was a labor of love," Rick Hines says.

As a national trainer and evaluator, "He was one of the best, highly respected," Carey says. "The umpires he evaluated left feeling good about themselves. He had a great way working with people. He was a calm, kind, easy-going guy, and he knew what he was talking about."

Mitchell found that out soon after applying as an official when he was the PNTA assignor.

"I met Perry at my first certification class," she says. "Over the years, I communicated with him regularly. At first it was by email. Over time, it branched into me calling him. Any time I had a question about officiating, he was the first person I called, and he usually answered. If not, he always got back to me. I had 100 percent faith in him helping me. He was my mentor. He was fantastic. He was fair and looked out for me."

During Mitchell's first line clinic, Hines attended as an observer.

"Perry was one of the top line officials in the world," she says. "He was standing off on the other side of the court from where we were practicing. By then, I felt pretty close to him and walked over to him. I said, 'Perry, I know you know what's going on here. Give me some advice.' He said, 'I don't want to step on anybody's toes.' But he gave me some little tips, and they were nuggets of information. He was shy and quiet and private, but if you needed help, he was there."

Soon Mitchell began working pro tournaments throughout the country.

"I was excited and proud of myself, but mostly, I wanted Perry to be proud of me," she says. "After every event, I always called Perry. We'd talk for an hour — poor guy. But he never ended a call with me. He always just let me talk."

Mitchell recalls early in her officiating career working a junior tournament.

"Perry was the referee," she says. "It was boys doubles, the last match of the day to finish. I was working the lines. One of the boys made a wrong call. I said, 'Correction on the ball.' After the match, Perry took me aside and said I'd done really well overall. But on that call, the verbiage needed to be, 'The ball was good.' He was an excellent teacher and mentor, though I don't think he would have told you that."

Alexander, who began officiating about a year before Mitchell, says she also relied on Hines' guidance.

"He was the guy I looked up to as far as what was professional," says Alexander, who lives in Fir Crest, Wash. "If I ever had a question about procedures, I would always call Perry. He knew not only the rule but how to proceed in the most professional manner. He was easy to talk to. There was never a dumb question. He was a household name around here, but he always had time for you. He expected a lot from his officials and gave back to the ones who respected that.

"When I decided I wanted to go further than just working the Portland area, I asked him how to do it. He pointed me in the right direction and gave me opportunities to get prepared to go out there and work in that environment. He was my window to what was going on there in the rest of the country, what was expected of me to be part of that group."

•••

Mattson's experience with Hines was much different. According to the legal brief filed in the lawsuit, Mattson felt discriminated against because of her sex.

"Female officials were rarely assigned to tournaments where they would need to officiate matches between more skilled male players," the complaint reads. "In contract, male officials, however, were routinely selected to officiate tournaments involving player of both genders and higher skill levels."

The complaint says when Mattson was selected to officiate high school state tournaments, she "was assigned to umpire matches between lower-division women players. In contrast, less-qualified male officials were selected over (Mattson) to umpire matches between higher division male and female players."

When Mattson complained to Hines, the brief says, he "blatantly admitted his practice of selecting male officials over female officials for certain tournaments. Hines then tried to justify his discriminatory practices as a method of keeping players happy and complaints to a minimum."

Mattson believed Hines then began a vendetta against her and "started a campaign to get rid of her," the complaint reads.

Their differences escalated, the complaint reads, until an incident with Mattson "working as an umpire" at a University of Portland match in February 2012.

"A male coach for the University of Portland became upset at (Mattson) after she agreed with a call that went against a Portland player," the complaint reads.

The UP coach, Aaron Gross, says Mattson was working not as an umpire that day but as a "shadow" — observing the umpire. Mattson had worked previous events at UP, "and I didn't feel like she was up to the task," he says.

"Perry never assigned her to big matches because she couldn't handle them," Gross says. "Every official in the city will tell you Laura was not equipped to handle that. She wasn't a strong enough referee. She didn't know the correct language. We can't have that. We need people who are professional. I told Perry, 'Look, we prefer to not have her. We'll try her again in the future, but right now, she needs more experience.' "

Gross says his request had nothing to do with Mattson's gender.

"There are males we've requested not to do our matches, too," he says. "She was certified, but not qualified to do it. Perry knew she wasn't up to it.

"He was as virtuous a guy in that position as you could have. He was going to hear you, but he was not going to be a pushover. All you're asking for is common sense from officials. He was really good at managing situations."

Before the February 2012 match against Cal Davis, Hines sent Gross an email.

"He asked if I'd mind if Laura came out as a shadow," Gross recalls. "He wrote, 'I want her to become better.' "

Mattson came as a shadow that day, standing alongside the umpire, watching the match and observing her work. There were two umpires to work three courts. The umpire had temporarily moved to a match on another court when a line call was disputed. Mattson, standing there, was suddenly the arbiter in the eyes of the players.

"All of a sudden, you have two 20-year-olds looking at her, asking her to make a call," Gross says. "To be fair to Laura, I don't think she had any intention of being involved in the match. She stepped in and made the call, and I don't think she realized what she was doing. But she overruled the call, and it turned into a brouhaha."

After interviewing Gross and the umpire, Hines met with Mattson.

"Hines wanted (Mattson) to admit that the call against the University of Oregon (sic) was wrong, and that she would not make such a call in the future," the complaint reads. Mattson "refused to be pressured to rule in a certain way."

According to the complaint, Hines "demanded" Mattson sign a performance review that criticized her disputed call in the UP match and for alleged difficulty reporting to matches on time the previous year. She refused. In March, Kviz, working as the section's director of officials, implemented a six-month suspension.

Kviz declined to answer questions from the Portland Tribune, citing advice from an attorney to not speak with the media.

After Mattson's suspension ended in September 2012, she was denied assignments by Hines, according to the legal claim. In June, Mattson filed an official complaint with the USTA. In August, the legal claim reads, she finally got an assignment, but "at an event at a different location than she requested. Hines, for the most part, continued to place less-qualified male individuals at the location (Mattson) requested."

•••

On Sept. 12, Mattson's suit was filed.

"Perry had been expecting it," Carey says, "but he didn't like what he read."

The USTA and PNTA had gotten wind of an impending suit. Prior to its filing, Hines had a meeting with PNTA executive director Matthew Warren and President Mike Temple, Carey says.

"Perry didn't feel they had his back," says Carey, who adds Hines was considering resigning his position because of what he felt was a lack of support over the matter.

In the early-morning hours of Sept. 13, Hines received an email from a friend warning him that a story regarding the suit had been posted on the ABC News website. He got on his computer and read the story.

"He decided then that he was going to end his life," Jackie Hines says.

Jackie knows this because Perry left notes for a few select family members and friends, including herself, Rick Hines and Kruse.

"He was very cogent in his note to me," Kruse says. "He mentioned he understood (suicide) is the most selfish thing you can do, but he spelled out (his thoughts). He felt he'd be broke if he had to fight this lawsuit, because the USTA didn't seem to want to back him. And he didn't like the public eye at all. He didn't want to have to be in court answering questions."

"He knew it was the wrong decision," Alexander says, "but he couldn't help himself."

To his siblings, Hines mentioned what he envisioned as a "media storm" to follow the ABC News report.

"He (wrote), 'If ABC/Good Morning America is running this, it will be on ESPN, and then it's everywhere,' " Jackie Hines says.

"Perry thought (the lawsuit) was frivolous," Rick Hines says. "Then he saw the Internet report, and it flipped his switch. He controlled his life, and he was going to be out of his element.

"He wrote, 'Rick, I want you to know, I'm no misogynist.' Of course he wasn't. There wasn't anybody he didn't like."

To be distraught is understandable. But to commit suicide? Were there other issues in Perry Hines' life that caused him to go over the edge?

"I wondered the same thing," Rick Hines says, "but there absolutely were not. He'd had a heart murmur diagnosed a year and a half earlier, and two days before his death, he had the heart checked out.

"He wanted to live. He had tons of food in his refrigerator. Everything in his life was great. He wasn't planning on going anywhere."

"There were no demons in his life," Jackie Hines says. "He was as happy as could be until that lawsuit and the ABC News report came out."

Perry Hines spent his final day arranging his will and canceling commitments. He prepaid for the tow of his car. He put together plans for officials to which Kviz could refer.

The next morning, Hines awoke early. He had always loved the scenery in the gorge.

"He was looking for a place that was pretty," Jackie Hines says. "He just started driving."

Hines headed toward Rowena. His final destination, ironically, was the Portland Women's Forum State Scenic Viewpoint beyond Corbett.

•••

Mitchell was working a tournament in Napa, Calif., when news reached of Hines' death.

"When I got the call, I thought it was a terrible misunderstanding," she says. "I was in a car with three other officials. I turned to them, and said, 'Perry's dead.' Even though none of them were friends of mine, they all knew Perry.

"We were just in shock. We were all crying. We had a moment of silence (at the tournament) the next day. Everybody was talking about it and consoling me, because I had a hard time dealing with it. Everyone agreed it just did not sound like anything they would have ever imagined Perry would do. They all wanted to know from me, 'Why?' I said maybe it had something to do with the lawsuit. I actually felt sorry for the person who brought the lawsuit."

Mitchell shadowed Mattson twice when she began officiating and has worked events with her since.

"We were acquainted," Mitchell says. "She invited me to her house once for dinner. I couldn't go. When her suspension happened, she shared her thoughts with me about it."

Was Mattson treated unfairly?

"All I can do is look at my relationship with Perry," Mitchell says. "He never held me back from anything because I was a woman. He protected me when tournaments were coming up where I'd be over my head working by myself. I never looked at it like he was holding me back because I was a woman, because he did it for men, too. He didn't want to send someone into a situation where they would flounder.

"My answer would be, she does not have a case."

Alexander, who also worked a couple of events with Mattson, calls her "a snake in the grass."

"Perry wasn't sexist in any way," she says. "He always advanced me or held me back on merit, not on my gender."

Alexander, like many of Hines' friends, wishes she could have done something to help.

"It's so hard to believe he couldn't reach out to us when he was in trouble," she says. "We always reached out to him when we were in trouble, and he was always there. For some reason, he didn't reach back. We would have been there for him. Now we just feel so helpless."

Carey says he believes the lawsuit will exonerate Hines.

"You will not find anyone who knew Perry or worked with him who wouldn't say he was a fair guy, a great guy," he says. "The only one who ever seemed to have a problem was (Mattson). She lives in her own little world.

"It's such a horrible waste. If he'd had a few days to calm down and talk to people …"

•••

A week after Hines' death, an informal wake was held at the North Bar in Southeast Portland, close to his home. About 150 friends and family filled the place.

"It was standing-room only," Rick Hines says. "The turnout was amazing."

"His friends and all the tennis people came from all over the Northwest," Jackie Hines says. "And we didn't send out invitations. They just showed up."

Since then, she says, "we've gotten cards from people all over the country who I don't even know. Lots of flowers … I'm sure he didn't realize he had all this support. I'm shocked at what people have written. Things like, 'He was our guiding light. How can we do without Perry?' He just did so much for (the tennis community). That was his passion in life."

The Hines have hired an attorney to help defend Perry's estate against the pending lawsuit.

"We've met people who said they would cover the attorney's cost and asked to testify," Jackie Hines says.

There is bitterness from the Hines family toward Mattson.

"The fact of the matter is, if she wouldn't have filed this lawsuit, Perry would be alive and happy today," Rick Hines says. "That's the bottom line."

"The sad thing is, Perry was nothing like the way he is portrayed" in the suit, Carey says. "He was the absolute standard for being a gentleman in the way he trained people and talked to them."

At the University of Portland, Gross says, a new umpire's chair will be dedicated at the opening match next season.

"It will be the 'Perry Hines Umpire Chair' in our building forever," he says.

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