A Sailor's Story: Captain George "Papa Bear" Halas


Captain George "Papa Bear" Halas was born in Chicago, Illinois, on February 2, 1895. He graduated from Crane High School and the University of Illinois with a degree in civil engineering, where Captain George Halas was a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon. He also played football, basketball, and baseball for the "Fighting Illini" before enlisting in the US Navy for World War I.

He played football for the US Navy at the Great Lakes Training Station and earned the MVP for the 1919 Rose Bowl (the last two years of WWI, the Rose Bowl was not played by collegiate teams but rather by teams formed by the US Military service members) 

After the war, Captain George "Papa Bear" Halas began his career with professional athletics, first in minor league baseball, before being drafted by the New York Yankees in the outfield. Captain Halas played 12 games before an injury ended his professional baseball career. 

Captain George Halas returned to Chicago and began working at the A.E. Stanley company in sales. He also played for the company baseball team and was a player/coach for the company football team, the Stanley Bears. 

Captain Halas represented the A.E. Stanley company at the first meeting of the American Professional Football Association (the NFL precursor) and began padding the Stanley Bears with talented athletes. The team started playing at Wrigley Field (they now play at Soldier Field) and won the 1921 American Professional Football Championships.

The Stanley Bears were renamed the Chicago Bears in 1922. 

Captain George "Papa Bear" Halas continued to play wide receiver and defensive end while also managing ticket sales and coaching duties until 1930, when he briefly stepped down from coaching and retired from playing. Then, in 1932, he took over the ownership of the Chicago Bears entirely, and in 1933, Captain George Halas returned to coaching the team.

In 1942, Captain George Halas returned to the US Navy for World War II and was the officer in charge of Welfare a  Recreation for the 7th Fleet under Admiral Nimitz. After the war, he retired from the US Navy.  

Captain George Halas returned to the Chicago Bears as the head coach and, in 1946, began hosting the annual NFL charity game for the US military and still hosts a "Bears Military Salute" at every home game.

In 1968, Captain George Halas officially retired from coaching after 64 seasons, 324 coaching victories, and 6 NFL titles. However, he remained active in the Chicago Bears management for the remainder of his life.  

Captain George "Papa Bear" Halas died on October 31, 1983, and rests at the St. Adalbert Catholic Cemetery in Niles, Illinois.


a.d. elliott is a wanderer, writer, and photographer currently living in Salem, Virginia. 

In addition to the travel writings at www.takethebackroads.com, you can also read her book reviews at www.riteoffancy.com and US military biographies at www.everydaypatriot.com

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