Gerald Francis Clifford
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Gerald Francis Clifford (June 19, 1889 - February 25, 1952) enjoyed a state-wide reputation as a trial lawyer, politician and officer of the Green Bay Packers. Clifford served as the team’s vice-president and attorney for nearly three decades, setting up the unique and enduring corporate structure, fighting off near bankruptcy several times and quashing an attempt to move the team.
Clifford was born on June 19, 1889 in Chilton, Wisconsin. He was the son of Jeremiah M. and Catherine Connelly Clifford. His father was employed with the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad and the family lived in Iron Mountain and later Escanaba, Michigan.
After graduating from high school, Clifford traveled throughout Europe, then returned to attend the University of Michigan, receiving an LL.B. in 1912. He began his practice of law that same year in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where his father was now regional superintendent.
Throughout his career, Clifford practiced in a variously arranged small firm in Green Bay. He defended twenty-six first degree murder cases, with no clients convicted of the original charge. Clifford made many appearances before the Wisconsin Supreme Court and served as both a special prosecutor and Special Assistant Attorney General of Wisconsin.
Politically, Clifford was a liberal Democrat and a supporter of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. As Wisconsin’s Progressive Party collapsed, he worked to bring its members into the Democratic Party. He was a longtime member of the State Central Committee and was a frequent speaker at state conventions. Clifford served as a delegate to all four national conventions that nominated Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was the Democratic Party nominee for Congress in 1934.
Clifford’s contributions as a member of the Green Bay Packers Board of Directors include:
- As one of the "Hungry Five", he begged, borrowed and otherwise cajoled money to keep the team going during the many lean years.
- As the team's attorney, he incorporated the team as a not-for-profit corporation, removing financial incentive for owning or moving the team.
- He established the current ownership and governance structure, helping to organize the original stock sales.
- He promoted the team throughout northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, both through his personal contacts and his connections with the railroads.
- In 1949-1950, he led the fight to prevent the conversion of the organization to a "for profit" business.
Clifford died in 1952 and was inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in 1991.
- Dictionary of Wisconsin Biography (1960), Madison,: State Historical Society of Wisconsin.
- Holmes, Fred L (1946). Wisconsin: stability, progress, beauty, Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company.
- Names, Larry D (1987). The History of the Green Bay Packers: The Lambeau years, part one, Wautoma, Wisconsin: Angel Press.
- Torinus, John B (1982). The Packer Legend: an inside look, Neshkoro, Wis.: Laranmark Press.
- Ward, Arch (1946). The Green Bay Packers; A story of professional football, New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons.