Gerald Francis Clifford

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Attorney and Packer Executive Gerald Francis Clifford

Gerald Francis Clifford (June 19, 1889 – February 24, 1952) was a trial lawyer, politician and officer of the Green Bay Packers.[1][2] Clifford served as the team’s vice-president and attorney for over two decades, fighting off bankruptcy, re-incorporating the team after receivership and quashing an attempt to move the team. He has been called the first sports attorney. [3]

Early life[edit]

Clifford was born on June 19, 1889 in Chilton, Wisconsin.[4][5] He was the son of Jeremiah M. and Katherine Connelly Clifford. His father was an executive with the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad. The family lived in Iron Mountain and later Escanaba, Michigan.[4]

After graduating from Escanaba High School,[4] Clifford traveled throughout Europe, then returned to attend the University of Michigan,[4] receiving an LL.B. in 1912.[5] He began his practice of law in 1913 with Patrick Martin[5] in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where his father was regional superintendent.

Legal career[edit]

Throughout his career, Clifford practiced in a small firm in Green Bay. He defended 26 first degree murder cases, with no clients convicted of the original charge. Clifford made appearances before the Wisconsin Supreme Court and served as both a special prosecutor and Special Assistant Attorney General of Wisconsin.[4][5]

Politically, Clifford was a liberal Democrat[5] 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 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.[5]

Green Bay Packers[edit]

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.
  • He defended the organization in the lawsuit that forced the Packers into receivership in 1933.
  • As the team's attorney (1929-1950), he signed and almost certainly drafted the Articles of Incorporation when the franchise reorganized as the Green Bay Packers, Inc., in 1935.
  • He did considerable legwork as head of the team’s season-ticket drive in communities outside Green Bay for many years, both through his personal contacts and his connections with the railroads. Season tickets protected the team from low attendance due to inclement weather.
  • In 1949-1950, he and W.W. Kelly successfully fought to save the nonprofit corporate structure in a power struggle with Lambeau.[6]


Clifford died on February 24, 1952 in Green Bay from a heart condition complicated by influenza.[4][5] He was inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in 1991.


  1. ^ "Atty. Clifford is dead at 62". Milwaukee Journal. February 25, 1952. p. 15, part 1. 
  2. ^ Gerald Francis Clifford, Wisconsin Historical Society
  3. ^ Collins, Maureen (2013). "The Lawyer Who Built Titletown: Gerald Clifford, The Green Bay Packers and Community Ownership,". University of Denver Sports and Entertainment Law Journal. Retrieved June 15, 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Gerald Clifford Dies in Green Bay". The Escanaba Daily Press. February 25, 1952. p. 10. Retrieved March 14, 2015 – via  open access publication – free to read
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "Gerald Clifford, Green Bay, Dead". Janesville Daily Gazette. February 25, 1952. p. 16. Retrieved March 14, 2015 – via  open access publication – free to read
  6. ^ "The truth and myth about 'The Hungry Five'". Retrieved 2016-06-16. 


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