Former Packer lineman leaves behind a legacy that extends well beyond sports
The NFL community lost a legend recently when Pro Football Hall of Famer Willie D. Davis died of kidney failure at age 85. The legendary Green Bay Packers defensive end turned radio station owner was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981, was a five-time Pro Bowl selection, played two seasons for the Cleveland Browns and 10 with the Packers (1960-1969, including five championships, three pre-Super Bowl league titles and the first two Super Bowls) before serving as an analyst on NBC’s NFL coverage in 1970-1975. He was also named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team from the 1960s and was the Walter Camp Man of the Year in 1986.
“The Green Bay Packers family was saddened to learn about the passing of Willie,” Mark Murphy, president and CEO of the Packers, said. “He was one of the great defensive players of his era and was a significant contributor to Green Bay’s five NFL championship teams during the 1960s. I enjoyed getting to know Willie and his wife, Carol, especially when he served as our honorary captain for the 2010 NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl XLV, and again for the 2014 NFC Championship Game. He also was a great role model for our players, having gone on to an extraordinarily successful career after football and serving on the Packers board of directors. We extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends.”
Davis’ football career began under legendary coach Eddie Robinson at Grambling State University, from which he was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the 15th round of the 1956 draft. He spent his first two years of his pro career serving his country in the Army before beginning his NFL journey in 1958. Davis was traded to the Green Bay Packers in 1960, where he flourished as a defensive end under Vince Lombardi. A graduate of Grambling University, he was a brother of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity and went on to earn a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Chicago as well as numerous honorary degrees.
“He was our family patriarch,” Duane Davis, Willie’s son, said. “He was probably best known on the field as the team captain for the dominating Lombardi era Green Bay Packers of the 1960s, but he was much more. He was a trailblazer in the world of business, as adept in the boardroom of the numerous Fortune 500 corporations on whose boards of directors he served as he was on the gridiron. His later passion was radio broadcasting, becoming one of the first Black Americans to own a Class-A radio broadcasting license.”
Davis was the owner of All Pro Broadcasting, which was founded in 1976 and houses local stations 101.3 KATY-FM The Mix in Temecula and Hot 103.9 KHTI-FM in San Bernardino and embarked on a business career, serving as a director on several corporate boards including Dow Chemical, MGM, Rally’s, Sara Lee and Schlitt. He also owned three radio stations in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, including WLDB-FM 93.3, WLUM-FM 102.1 and FONZ-FM 100.3 and 107.3, which are all part of the Milwaukee Radio Alliance, a partnership with Times-Shamrock Communications.
“I am proud of my achievements,” Davis said to Investors Business Daily in 2017, “But I am even more proud of the work I have done to earn them.”
“He would undoubtedly agree that his greatest achievement was his family,” Duane Davis said.
Willie Davis was adored by his wife, Carol, his children Duane (Inge) and Lori, grandchildren David, Wyatt, Harley and Hayden as well as his brothers and sisters and a host of family and friends. Funeral services will be private, but a future, public celebration of his incredible life is planned. The family is requesting privacy at this time.
JP Raineri can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.