Jeffrey Glenn Atkinson was the younger of two sons born to Diane and Rick Atkinson in Tallahassee on December 14, 1974. After graduating from Lincoln High School in 1993, Jeff attended Lively Fire Academy and joined the reserve program with the Tallahassee Fire Department in 1995. He was hired by Panama City Fire Department in 1997 and worked there until he was offered a full-time job with TFD in 1999.
Jeff was assigned to TFD’s busiest house, Station 3. Here he earned a reputation as an aggressive, fearless, and knowledgeable firefighter, the kind of guy who “had your back” and who every officer wanted on their crew. In 2008, Jeff was promoted to fire engineer and excelled in this position. To quote a retired captain who recently passed away, “Jeff was the best damn driver I ever had, and I’ve had a lot of drivers.” Jeff held this rank until his death in the early morning of December 15, 2017.
Jeff was proud of being part of TFD and genuinely cared about the people he served, but being a firefighter was just a small part of who he was. Since he was young, family and friends were a priority in his life. This priority grew into fierce devotion after the birth of his beautiful daughter, Austin, in July 2012. Late one night, Jeff told me that he never believed he could feel so proud at being a father or be so in love with someone as he was with Austin. Together with his wife, Nina, he raised the happiest, most loving and independent little girls you will ever meet. Jeff didn’t use the word friend lightly. If you were a friend of Jeff’s, you earned it, and you were a friend for life. His brother, Brian, is a lieutenant with TFD and is in part responsible for Jeff becoming the man he was. They were best friends on and off the job.
It depends who you ask, but to me one of Jeff’s best attributes was his ability to be brutally honest 100% of the time; it didn’t matter if you were a friend or a fire chief. If you didn’t want to hear his thoughts on something, don’t ask him. Most of the time you would hear his thoughts anyway, as he was known for being outspoken. You knew exactly where he stood on all issues.
Jeff’s parents and family are so proud of the path he took and the direction he was headed in life. He was a solid guy. He was what more people should strive to be when it comes to being a father, husband, son, brother, friend, and firefighter. He touched so many lives and continues to do so today. Rest easy, brother. We got it from here.