Board of Directors: 1950-95
Executive Committee: 1958-85
Atkinson served on the Packers’ board of directors for 45 years and their executive committee for 27, but his most important undertaking might have been chairing the “Save the Packers” Thanksgiving Day intra-squad game in 1949. That was before he was elected to either group. In mid-November of that year, the Packers were facing a possible $90,000 in losses when Atkinson was entrusted with raising close to half that amount so the Packers could be assured of finishing the season. “We have no angels in Green Bay, we’ve got to get out and work to keep the Packers here,” Atkinson told 100 “Packer Backers” at a kickoff breakfast. Ten days later, a crowd of 15,000 showed up at blustery, snow-packed City Stadium for the game and the Packers’ coffers swelled by more than $40,000.
In 1956, Atkinson and fellow board member Tony Canadeo served as co-captains of the “Citizens Committee for the Stadium Team.” The committee was organized to convince the voters of Green Bay to pass a $960,000 bond issue to pay for a new stadium. Atkinson also served as chairman of Green Bay’s Minute Men, a sports-minded group that tried to rally support for Packers causes in the late 1940s and ’50s.
“Jerry was always a hard worker and ready to take on anything to better Green Bay and the Packers,” said Canadeo, a Hall of Fame player before becoming a board and executive committee member.
Atkinson was elected to the board of directors on July 10, 1950, and served until May 31, 1995, when he was named a director emeritus. He was elected to the executive committee on April 28, 1958, and served until June 3, 1985. He had moved to Green Bay in 1947 to become general merchandise manager of the city’s H.C. Prange Co. store and was named general manager a year later. He retired from Prange in 1973.
Born Jan. 12, 1907, in Detroit, Mich., but grew up in Columbus, Ohio. Given name Gerald Ralph Atkinson. Died Oct. 8, 1996, at age 89.
- By Cliff Christl