Skywalks: Robert Gordon’s Untold Story of Hallmark’s Kansas City Disaster
The full, unsettling truth of the deadly collapse of two 120-foot skywalks in Kansas City’s Hyatt Regency hotel in 1981 rested for decades in a manuscript written – but never published – by an attorney immersed in the tragedy’s legal aftermath.
Robert Gordon represented the plaintiffs in a federal class-action lawsuit against those who designed, built, inspected, owned, and managed the hotel. He was tenacious in uncovering damaging details that he planned to present to a jury but never did. Hallmark Cards, the hotel’s owner, and other corporate defendants chose to settle all claims out of court and away from the spotlight of a public trial.
In a presentation marking the launch of his new book Skywalks: Robert Gordon’s Untold Story of Hallmark’s Kansas City Disaster, historian Eli Paul explores the lawyer-turned-writer’s quixotic quest and explosive revelations. The Hyatt disaster killed 114 people and injured more than 200, all due to a fatal and avoidable design flaw. Gordon laid blame largely on Hallmark, one of Kansas City’s largest employers and most iconic corporate entities, but a resistance to collaboration and compromise kept his tell-all book from going to print.
Paul, who as manager of the Library’s Missouri Valley Special Collections from 2011-16 oversaw acquisition of the Gordon papers for the department, is one of the region’s most accomplished public historians. He served previously as museum director at the National World War I Museum and the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and as senior historian at the Nebraska State Historical Society in Lincoln.
He is the author or editor of eight other books including Blue Water Creek and the First Sioux War, 1854-1856, which earned the 2005 Robert M. Utley Award as the best book published on the military history of the frontier and western North America.
This event will be livestreamed at youtube.com/kclibrary (no RSVP necessary), and will also be available for later viewing.