Dad Braisher is an architect of the 'G' logo; should he be in the Packers Hall of Fame?
In 1960, Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi suffered his one and only championship-game loss in a 17-13 setback against the Philadelphia Eagles. Naturally, in an effort to make sure it didn't happen again, the legendary Lombardi set his sights on a key area of improvement: team fashion.
As Hall of Fame linebacker Dave Robinson tells it (though he wasn't yet a Green Bay Packer), Lombardi apologized to the team over the loss and said it wouldn't happen again, that the coaching staff now possessed the championship-game experience that would help them prevail in these situations going forward. And, furthermore, the team's monochromatic gold helmets needed a change.
"The helmets looked like the Cleveland Browns, just plain, nothing on them," said Robinson, who was drafted by the Packers in 1963, won three NFL titles (including the first two Super Bowls) and earned induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013. "(Lombardi) liked 'NY' (the interlocking Yankees logo) because he came from New York, so he wanted "GB" on the helmets, and Dad said he didn't like it. Vince said, 'You don't like it? Get me something better.' "
So, essentially, that's what Dad did.
"Dad" is Gerald Braisher, the beloved equipment manager for the Packers from 1956-76 who preferred a different look for the helmet, a solitary "G," perhaps in the shape of the football. Braisher, who ironically never married and had no children of his own but picked up the nickname "Dad" during his childhood, returned to the Union Hotel in De Pere that he called home. Working with St. Norbert College art student John Gordon to perfect the image, Braisher played a role in bringing one of the most iconic sports visuals to life.
"Vince said he didn't like that; he likes the 'GB' better," Robinson said, pointing out that Lombardi often wore baseball caps with an interlocking "GB" even after the "G" became the permanent look for the team. "But he said, 'Let's put it up to the coaches.' They all voted on the 'G' that Dad made. Lombardi agreed on a one-year trial, they won the championship in '61, 37-0, and Vince said, 'That's the new logo for the helmet.' "
Braisher, whose name appeared for years on the football field at De Pere High School, where he was a teacher and coach for decades before joining the Packers staff full time, isn't a member of the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame, and Robinson isn't the only one who would like to see that change.
"As a non-player and non-executive, I would think an oversight like this would be understandable," said Royce Boyles, co-author of "The Lombardi Legacy: Thirty People Who Were Touched by Greatness" with Robinson. Boyles is spearheading a grassroots campaign at his website, GreenBayNFL.com, with two aims – ask fans to sign a petition that will encourage Braisher's induction into the Packers Hall of Fame and collect donations for improvements at Braisher's grave site.
Braisher, who died in 1982 at age 81, is buried close to family members in Janesville, where a small grave marker includes a picture of the Packers helmet bearing the G logo.
"We want this to come from the fans," Boyles said. "He designs this logo and it turns out to be this multimillion-dollar logo, and yet, … as powerful as the Packers and the NFL are, there are really few ways the fans can make a difference. Here's this really important thing in sports history in our state, it's a pretty important guy, and yet he's anonymously laid to rest in this cemetery."
There's a decent chance Braisher indeed gets inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame some day soon, but that doesn't mean it's surefire.
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Why isn't Dad Braisher already in the Packers Hall of Fame?
It sounds like a slam dunk. The guy who created the logo should be in the Packers Hall of Fame, which already includes 166 inductees, right? One of those is Bud Jorgenson, the equipment manager and trainer who started in 1924 and hired Braisher for the job, so there is precedent for inducting someone like Braisher.
But it's complicated. Though Braisher worked with the Packers for 21 years, he doesn't boast the longevity of many other Packers "contributors" in the Hall of Fame. Jorgenson, for example, was there for 46 years and a charter member of the National Trainers Association to boot; the Packers even held a "Bud Jorgenson Day" in 1955.
As Packers historian Cliff Christl points out, most of the 34 inducted contributors were essential executives or employees whose tenure lasted decades. Then there's the matter of the "G" artwork itself, which the Packers regard as Gordon's handiwork.
"Yes, Lombardi went to Braisher when he wanted to create the 'G' logo," Christl said. "But John Gordon designed it. I've talked to graphic artists that told me there's no way someone who wasn't an artist could have designed the football-shaped 'G' because of the symmetry and spacing. Braisher was a doodler, but that didn't make him an artist. I talked to Vince Lombardi Jr. who worked in the equipment room as a college kid with Gordon, and he vouched for his veracity. And Romo Display, which took Gordon's rendering and produced the final product, pretty much confirmed what the artists said."
McKim Boyd, who today owns the Union Hotel where Braisher took up residence from 1941-81 (after his apartment burned down, his temporary stay was extended when he realized the cost would be roughly the same, Robinson said), tells it similarly.
"Did Gordon do it? Yes, but when it went to a printer and a graphic design person, they altered the renderings as well," Boyd said. "Ultimately, the brain trust of the thing − the idea of a 'G' inside a football − was Dad Braisher's idea. My dad (previous hotel owner Jim Boyd) indicated that he had some pencil sketches that he had done − (Braisher) was an old shop teacher and used to tinker all the time with drawings and stuff like that − so there's a good likelihood he had created his own version of it, but he instructed Gordon to come up with the thing."
Boyd said Braisher came up with all sorts of locker room items − signs, banners, catch phrases − that he wonders if Braisher took the initiative to fashion the 'G' logo and brought it to Lombardi rather than the other way around, with Lombardi instructing Braisher to produce it. Jim Boyd and Braisher had a close relationship; McKim believes Jim paid to have the 'G' logo and helmet added to Braisher's grave stone.
Christl points out that someone like Domenic Gentile, a trainer from 1969-92 and a part-time assistant as far back as 1961, hasn't yet merited induction but has also gotten support from past players and may rank ahead of Braisher in terms of longevity and overall contribution with a higher profile role of trainer, as opposed to an equipment manager.
Braisher still has a good case for Packers Hall of Fame induction, though
But Christl still thinks Braisher would merit consideration. He was still a beloved figure during the team's glory years, and he did play a role in that logo, even if his hand didn't wield the pen.
Robinson stresses that Braisher was more than just a guy handling shoulder pads and cleats (though he did those tasks well).
"If he saw a new piece of equipment (that could help the team), Dad would get it, and he'd try it out, and if we liked it, we'd tell Vince," Robinson said. "If he saw a helmet piece or shoe … he was as much part of a team as anybody and did as much to lead us to victory and championships as anybody. All the players went to Dad Brashier for any little thing. During the season, there's a thousand things that come up. Something doesn't fit right, anything to do with equipment, Dad took care of it. Shoes, pads, jerseys, he took care of everything. and you never had to worry about it. I think everybody loved the guy."
Robinson illustrated that point by noting Braisher often received players' votes for a full share of bonus playoff money, an accommodation that didn't even always go to players who played a partial season.
"(Voting on playoff shares) was one of the meanest, cruelest things you ever saw in your life," Robinson said with a laugh.
A new look for his Janesville resting place?
Tom Presny, an usher at Packers games who's been retired from his role as city parks director in Janesville for eight years, has been a Packers fan all his life, so he naturally took notice of the Braisher gravestone with the Packers helmet at Oak Hill Cemetery.
"Being employed there and overseeing the cemetery and its care, I was asked by various people, 'Who was this man?" Presny said. "They thought he was some gentleman associated with the Packers but knew nothing more. The fact there was this Packers helmet on this gravestone just begged the question, so I started exploring."
Presny reached out to historical societies both in Rock County and De Pere to discover that Braisher's grandparents were buried in Janesville back in the 1800s, and his parents married there. Dad himself lived there for six years before moving to Oshkosh, where he grew up and starred as a multi-sport athlete at UW-Oshkosh.
"He has a city park and athletic field named after him (in De Pere) and yet he was a very unassuming person and wished no praise or visibility," Presny said. "He's been buried for 40 years in Janesville with little or no recognition."
Presny said he'd like to see that changed, viewing a gravestone "about the size of a loaf of bread" as too little for Braisher. He's built a committee looking into the development of a bronze plaque near the grave site and perhaps a bench. One of the possible fundraising options: bringing Robinson to town to talk about Braisher's legacy.
"(Robinson) made it clear to me that Dad Braisher was special to him and he was deserving of recognition," Presny said, "and he said, 'Tom, whatever you do, let's get this done. Let's make sure that Dad gets proper recognition.' "
Braisher was elected to the UW-Oshkosh Hall of Fame in 1979 and the Wisconsin High School Coaches Hall of Fame in 1980. He also received a citation for his high standards by the NFL's Equipment Managers Association. Perhaps the Packers Hall of Fame is next.
Boyles' site includes a donation area for those who want to contribute to the Janesville project.
JR Radcliffe can be reached at (262) 361-9141 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @JRRadcliffe.