Press "Enter" to skip to content

Unofficial Mayor of Buckhead Sam Massell Announces Retirement

On Wednesday, January 29, 2020, at the thirty-first annual meeting of the Buckhead Coalition, Inc., Samuel A. Massell, Jr. announced his plans to retire. For years, Massell has worked with the Buckhead Coalition, a non-profit civic organization, as founding president. It is an association of business executives on the north side of Atlanta, primarily in the Buckhead community. He has been lovingly penned, the mayor of Buckhead. He will forever be known as the primary impetus that spearheaded the Buckhead Community Improvement District.

Samuel A. Massell, Jr. served as the Mayor of Atlanta from 1970 to 1974. He is the first Jewish mayor in the Atlanta’s history. He served twenty-two years in elected offices. Prior to being Atlanta’s Mayor, he was first a city councilman, then on the Atlanta City Executive Committee. He served eight years as President of Atlanta’s Board of Aldermen (now the Atlanta City Council).

Massell graduated from Druid Hills High School at the age of 16 and enrolled at the University of Georgia (UGA). He later transferred to Emory University before being drafted into the United States Army Air Force in 1946. Later, he returned to the UGA and earned his Bachelor’s degree in 1951. He received an LL.B. degree, and, in 1971, he received an honorary degree in Doctor of Laws from Oglethorpe University.

Massell was a successful realtor and was vice president of the Allan-Grayson Realty Company. He was quite involved in tourism business and was a former president of the Travel Industry Association of Georgia.

While mayor, Massell was also the president of the 15,000-member National League of Cities. He helped establish the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) and served for four years on the board. He was also a board member of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG).

He established the Omni Coliseum (the first enclosed arena in Atlanta), and Woodruff Park. He also pioneered minority opportunities in city government, appointing the first woman to the Atlanta City Council and the first Black Americans as municipal department heads. While mayor, he “allowed” Muhammad Ali to have a boxing match in Atlanta, even though it was quite a controversial decision. Massell was defeated in a bid for re-election in 1973 by Maynard Holbrook Jackson, Atlanta’s first African-American Mayor.

Massell has been honored in the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau “Hospitality Hall of Fame”; International Civil Rights Martin Luther King Jr. Center “Walk of Fame”; Georgia State University Robinson College “Business Hall of Fame”, Georgia Trend Magazine “Most Influential Georgian’s Hall of Fame,” and Georgia Municipal Association “Government Hall of Fame.”

He married the former Doris Middlebrooks (1925-2015) of Hogansville, Georgia, in 1952. In 2016, Massell married long-time friend and current wife Sandra Gordy.

Related: Read the January 1970 articles about Mayor Sam Massell and Vice-Mayor Maynard Jackson being sworn into office.

Last updated on March 9, 2020

Translate »