Washington, Tyne & Wear born centre half Jack Atkinson began his football career with Washington Colliery in 1930 and signed for First Division Bolton Wanderers in September 1931, making his Football League debut against West Bromwich Albion in April 1933. He soon became a mainstay of the Bolton team playing both sides of the Second World War scoring 5 goals in 263 appearances for The Trotters over a 17 year period.
Despite their relegation to the Second Division in 1933, Atkinson helped them win promotion to the First Division as Second Division runners up in 1934-35, missing only two games all season and the same season was part of the Bolton FA Cup semi final team when they lost 2-0 in a replay to West Bromwich Albion at The Victoria Ground, Stoke. Despite the significant interruption of the Second World War to his career, during which Atkinson served with the 53rd (Bolton) Field Regiment, taking part in the invasion of Italy on 24th September 1943 as a truck driver, transporting ammunition and equipment, he returned to Burnden Park to resume peacetime football in 1946 and played for a further two seasons making his final appearance for The Trotters in an FA Cup tie against Spurs in January 1948.
In May 1948 he joined Third Division (North) club New Brighton, becoming player-manager in July, with Atkinson making 57 appearances during his time on the Wirral on the Wirral which ended in July 1950.