Billy Howton was an All-American wide receiver from Rice University who was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the second round of the 1952 draft. Howton represented the Packers at the first ever meeting of the NFLPA Board of Player Reps in late December of 1956.  He brought with him a list of four grievances, and the second on his list was his teammates’ demand for clean towels, t-shirts, socks, and athletic supporters for the second of two-a-day practices in training camp. This created the long-standing legend that the NFLPA was formed by the Packers in 1956 because of their desire to have “clean socks and jocks.” Howton was a mainstay in the NFLPA throughout its early years, and was one of only three players to attend every player rep meeting between 1956 and 1961. He was elected as the NFLPA’s first President in 1958, and was best known for the ultimatum he personally gave the owners in 1959 which would have them establish a pension plan for the players or defend an antitrust suit brought by the NFLPA in federal court. The result was the establishment of the Bert Bell NFL Player Retirement Plan later that year. The next year Howton challenged Commissioner Bert Bell and the league on their use of player likenesses on trading cards, and later co-opted the revenue from trading cards so it could be used for player benefit. After a brief stint with the Browns, Howton stepped down as NFLPA President in 1961, and finished his career playing for the Dallas Cowboys from 1960 to 1963. After he retired, he remained involved as a representative of retired players at Player Rep meetings, and served as one of the NFLPA representatives on the pension committee until 1970.  

Tags 60th Anniversary 60 NFLPA Heroes


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