J. James (Jim) Davis III, co-founder and former CEO of Great Northern Corporation, passed away Wednesday, September 11, 2013, at the age of 86. Born in Joliet, IL, Jim grew up in Riverside, IL. He served in the US Navy from 1944-1946, and was stationed in Hawaii. He graduated from Carleton College in 1950, where he played on the tennis team.
Jim moved to Neenah, Wisconsin, where he joined Marathon Corporation in 1952. In 1961, Jim left Marathon to begin his partnership with Bob Brown and John Maring to found Great Northern Corporation. Under their leadership, Great Northern Corporation has become a leader in integrated packaging, shipping, merchandising and distribution solutions. Jim led with an entrepreneurial spirit, and created and preserved a culture of integrity, personal commitment, and sharing in the success of the company. Today, Great Northern employs more than 1,000 people in 11 locations in 7 states and is one of the nation’s largest independent producers of protective packaging and displays.
Jim was committed to giving back to the community through contributions to many local charities and educational institutions, including Carleton College, Theda Clark Medical Center, and the Fox Cities Performing Art Center. Together with Bob Brown, they established Great Northern Park, a city park, playground and soccer facility. Jim served on the boards of Associated Banc-Corp, Neenah-Menasha Chamber of Commerce, and North Shore Golf Club. Jim and his wife Althea, who have been married for more than 35 years, resided in Neenah; Presque Isle, WI; and Vero Beach, FL. Jim was preceded in death by his parents, Vivian Violet and Jack Davis. He is survived by his wife, Althea Davis; his children, Jane Hottensen (Bob Hottensen) of New York, NY, Susan Thomas (Jack Thomas) of Cumberland, ME, John Davis (Kathy Davis) of Neenah, WI, Jennifer Dunne (Peter Dunne) of Lake Forest, IL and their mother Joan Radford. He also is survived by stepchildren Gregory Lincoln of White Bear, MN and Victoria Forner (Tom Forner) of Chaska, MN, and his 17 grandchildren.
The memorial service will be held on Sunday, September 22, at 4:30pm at North Shore Golf Club. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Theda Clark Medical Center Foundation.
Jim was a man of extraordinary vision, and an avid sportsman who was as comfortable in a fishing boat as he was in a boardroom. He was dedicated to his family, and through his success and generosity, touched the lives of so many. He will be deeply missed.