4 life lessons gleaned in the new Sam Massell biography

Words of wisdom from City Hall’s first and only Jewish leader
Sam Massell
Sam Massell

Photograph by Ben Rollins

In Play It Again, Sam: Atlanta’s First Minority Mayor, a new biography by Charles McNair about former mayor Sam Massell, we learn life lessons from City Hall’s first and only Jewish leader.

Do the right thing
Elected in 1969, Massell ushered in City Hall’s first black and female leaders during his single four-year term, even keeping the chairmanship of the personnel board open until a candidate of color was found.

Know your worth
As a student at Georgia State University in 1949, Massell worked at a saleswomen’s trade group. Every few months, he would ask for and receive a $50 raise—until his boss lined Massell up with a better-paying job.

Be bold
To recruit support for the 1971 MARTA referendum, he hovered above a gridlocked interstate in a helicopter, yelling through a bullhorn: “If you want out of this mess, vote yes!”

Just say no
After thousands of “hippies” took over Midtown and Piedmont Park, Massell launched a horse patrol to curb drug deals and established the city’s first police precinct at Peachtree and 10th.

This article appears in our April 2018 issue.