On January 7, 2018, one month before his 91st birthday, Bill Atkinson, retired West Coast 7-goal polo player, passed away. Bill Atkinson was born in 1927 in Okeechobee, Florida. Bill’s early education was spent between Okeechobee and Jacksonville, Florida, where he developed his skills as a natural athlete, talents that earned him a full scholarship for track at the University of Florida, Gainesville.

1973 U.S. Open Polo Championship® winners Oak Brook. (L to R) Paul Butler, Hugo Dalmar Jr., Bill Atkinson, Mrs. Dupont, Jorie Ford Butler, Charles Smith, Robert D. Beveridge, William T. Ylvisaker.
1973 U.S. Open Polo Championship® winners Oak Brook. (L to R) Paul Butler, Hugo Dalmar Jr., Bill Atkinson, Mrs. Dupont, Jorie Ford Butler, Charles Smith, Robert D. Beveridge, William T. Ylvisaker.

In addition to his success as a runner, Bill was equally talented in basketball. As a “Florida Gator,” Bill was a high scorer for the Gator’s basketball team and captain in his senior year. He participated in several sports, was elected Vice President of his senior class and maintained an “A” average throughout his academic career.

After graduating from college, Bill relocated to California. Though he had planned to attend veterinary school, plans shifted when he met his first wife, Carol Smith. Her father encouraged Bill to join his construction firm, LC Smith & Company. Bill and Carol settled in San Mateo and Bill began his career in road paving, land and subdivision development.

Tommy Lee Jones and Bill Atkinson.
Tommy Lee Jones and Bill Atkinson.

During his 43-year polo career, Bill played with and against the best players of his time such as Roy Barry, Charles Smith, Billy Linfoot, Tommy Wayman, John Oxley, Michael Butler, Ray Harrington, Bobby Beverage and Billy Mayberry. Polo career highlights include winning the U.S. Open Polo Championship® in 1969 and 1973. He also won the Pacific Coast Open numerous times.

He is survived by his wife, Connie, his older brother, Glenn (wife, Nancy), his three children, Joe (Cordi), Jennifer Newell (Steve) and Jesse Biglow (Russ) numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren and two step daughters, Jenny Vargas and Roxy Keyfauver.

A celebration of Life for Bill Atkinson is planned for January 26 at Empire Polo Club in Indio, California, on Field 1 between 2:30pm and 5:00pm PT.