Former Falcons great James ‘Cannonball’ Butler dead at 70


Former Falcons great James ‘Cannonball’ Butler dead at 70

Former Atlanta Falcons Pro Bowl running back James “Cannonball” Butler, who played in the NFL from 1965 to 1972, passed away on Monday, Feb. 10. He was 70.

Butler, who played at Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, was drafted in the 14th round of the 1965 NFL draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

He played for the Falcons from 1968 to 1972 and made the Pro Bowl team after the 1969 season.

He had 797 rushes for 2,768 yards and scored nine touchdowns over his career.

On Oct. 4, 1970, Butler rushed 17 times for a career-high 127 yards in a 21-10 win over San Francisco.

In the Falcons’ first Monday Night Football win ever and their second MNF appearance, Butler stole the show with an 82-yard kickoff return in Atlanta’s 28-21 victory over Green Bay on Nov. 23, 1971.

Later, Butler worked for the city and for special projects in the school system.

“Enjoyed working in the school system,” said his daughter Linda Barney of Jacksonville. “He loved his college, Edward Waters and his loved his fraternity, the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity (Inc.). Those were the things close to his heart.”

Butler, who was suffering from Dementia, attended Edward Waters’ homecoming football game in 2013.

“He enjoyed meeting his old football team and class mates,” Barney said. “We just had to take it one day at a time.”

As backfield coach for Carver High, he helped them off to a 4-0 start in 1991.

“We’ve had a chance to work with a lot of these boys for several years,” said Butler in an Oct. 4, 1991 article in The Atlanta Constitution, “and this year, we’re running the ball excellent.”

He is survived by Barney and a son, Jeffrey Butler of Atlanta.

The Funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at New Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church, 221 NW 8th Ave., Boynton Beach, Fla.

Flowers can be sent to Johnson’s Memorial Chapel, 1105 N. Federal Highway, Boynton Beach, Fla.

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