J.C. Atkinson a man of integrity
Former mayor dies
July 25, 2019 | View PDF
Shafter has lost one its pioneers with the passing of J.C. Atkinson. Atkinson was a businessman, public servant, husband, father, and son. He was the seventh of 11 children born to Elijah and Maggie Atkinson of Parker, Oklahoma. They moved to Wasco in 1942 and he eventually moved to Shafter after a stint in the U.S. Army, stationed in Fairbanks, Alaska.
With his wife Bernice, Atkinson raised three sons in Shafter, holding a variety of jobs on the way. Among his occupations, J.C. worked for Harold Weins at Shafco Lumber. He also owned Say Kern Plumbing and retired as the plumbing specialist for the Kern County Building Department. "He was my boss for a time," said Woody Colvard, a former City Council member who also worked for the Kern County Building Department.
"He was a partner of my dad's in a variety of ventures through the years. J.C. was an honest man, full of integrity and a real gentleman and a good Christian," Colvard said.
In addition to his business ventures, Atkinson was a Shafter police officer when the department was just coming into its own as a full-service department. "He was technically a reserve officer, but in those days, the reserves worked actually as full-time officers. He was an integral part of the department and its growth into what is now the Shafter Police Department," said Shafter Police Chief Kevin Zimmermann. Zimmermann said that he had the pleasure of visiting Atkinson when he was doing research for the Shafter Police Department's Historical Project. "He was really on the ground floor as the department was being formed, so he was involved in its formative years as the department grew.
By contacting city residents, a common thread ran throughout the entire conversations: integrity. Atkinson served on the City Council from 1966-1970 with a two-year stint as mayor. He left a lasting impression on the members, as well as those he dealt with as a straightforward, honest man to engage with.
Former Shafter Mayor and current City Councilmember Cathy Prout said that she owes her public service career in part to Atkinson. "J.C. Atkinson and Elmer Unruh came to me in 1981 and asked me if I had ever thought about running for City Council. I thought they were joking around. They came back to me later and said that they were serious," said Prout.
She went on to say that Atkinson told her that he saw how much she was involved in when it came to the schools and community. He told her that she should really think about running, which she decided to do, and the rest is history.
Jay was a good Christian man according to all who knew him, spending many years on the Elder Board at Valley Bible Church, the Board of Youth for Christ, and the Richland School Board. Because of his involvement in his church outreach, which started a group that put it upon themselves to help members of their congregation who were in need, according to Prout, Atkinson helped form what is now the Community Chest, which helps different residents who are in need.