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On June 30, 1965, the end came to the many struggles to place a professional football team in Atlanta and the Atlanta Falcons were born.
Rankin Smith, a young insurance executive had controlling ownership of the Falcons. Rankin soon held his first press conference and the day's proceedings threw the city into a happy delirium. By the time Smith got back to his insurance office 24 hours later, there had been over 1,000 phone calls for tickets. He had to push his way through stacks of mail.
By August, when a contest was completed which resulted in the nickname “Falcons”, a few of the avid fans even had come to blows in defense of what they believed their adopted team should be called. Several persons suggested the name "Falcons" in a contest, but a school teacher from nearby Griffin, Miss Julia Elliott, was selected winner because of her reasons: "The falcon is proud and dignified, with great courage and fight. It never drops prey. It is deadly and has a great sporting tradition."
By the middle of December, Smith had signed the most coveted college football player in the nation, Texas linebacker Tommy Nobis. By Christmas Eve, when the Falcons cut off a brief 54-day ticket sale requiring almost no promotion, an NFL record had been established for season tickets sold by a new club (45,000). And in January, Smith surprised named a head coach, Green Bay Packer assistant Norb Hecker, who assumed his new post with vigor and immediately embraced the gigantic job of sifting- along with Director of Player Personnel Gene Cronin-a huge list of NFL players made available to the Atlanta expansion team by other teams in the league.
Three men were chosen from each club and these 42 formed the nucleus of the roster Hecker had to work with when he took the team to summer training camp in Black Mountain, North Carolina in early July. Then, on August 27, in Columbia, South Carolina, the Falcons recorded their first victory, defeating the San Francisco 49ers, 24-17, in a preseason game. Once the stadium, Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, was built, Atlantans felt the time was right to start pursuing professional football.
One independent group which had been active in NFL preseason promotions in Atlanta applied for franchises in both the AFL and the NFL, acting entirely on its own with no guarantee of stadium rights. With everyone running in different directions, some local businessmen worked out a deal and were awarded an AFL franchise on June 7, 1965, contingent upon acquiring exclusive stadium rights from city officials.
NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, who had been moving deliberately in Atlanta matters, headed on the next plane down to Atlanta to protect his league's claim on the city of Atlanta. He forced the city to make a choice between the two leagues. Of course on that memorable June 30 Rankin Smith and the NFL were the choice. The huge void which had been the Southeast without an NFL team was beginning to close. Fans were looking now toward Atlanta. The Falcons expect to be filling that void for a long time.
A new chapter in the history of the Atlanta Falcons began on December 6, 2001. On that day, Arthur M. Blank, the co-founder and retired co-chairman on Atlanta-based Home Depot, reached a preliminary agreement with the Falcons' Taylor Smith to purchase the team. In a special meeting prior to Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans on February 2, 2002, NFL owners voted unanimously to approve the purchase.