When he won a bruising mayor’s race in 1969 after eight years as a city alderman, the forty-two-year-old Massell held the distinctions of being Atlanta’s youngest, most progressive, and first Jewish mayor. Massell’s lasting legacy included helping launch MARTA and building the Omni Coliseum.
Having lost reelection to Maynard Jackson, Massell reclaimed some political clout in 1988 when he became president of the newly formed Buckhead Coalition, a group of CEOs that promotes the area. Gracious and self-effacing, the unofficial “Mayor of Buckhead” has proven that nice guys—with good connections—can still affect public policy, such as when he helped roll back Atlanta’s bar hours to 3 a.m.
Family Business Massell’s uncle, Ben, was one of the top developers of midcentury Atlanta, credited by Mayor Ivan Allen Jr. as the “creator of the Atlanta skyline.”