Military Wiki
Sam Massell
53rd Mayor of Atlanta, Georgia

In office
Preceded by Ivan Allen Jr.
Succeeded by Maynard Jackson
Personal details
Born August 26, 1927(1927-08-26) (age 95)
Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Alma mater University of Georgia
Occupation Real estate businessman
Military service
Allegiance United States
Service/branch  United States Air Force

Samuel A. Massell Jr. (born August 26, 1927) is an American businessman who served from 1970 to 1974 as the 53rd mayor of Atlanta, Georgia. He is the first Jewish mayor in the city's history, to date and the most recent non-black Mayor of Atlanta.

Life and career

Samuel A. Massell Jr. was born to Samuel A. Massell (1892-1961) and the former Florence Rubin (1901-1977) in 1927. He was known as "Buddy" during his childhood and high school years. He graduated from Druid Hills High School at age 16 and enrolled at the University of Georgia in Athens, where he was a member of the Phi Kappa Literary Society.[1] He was also president of Phi Epsilon Pi (Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity )He later transferred to Emory University before being drafted into the United States Army Air Force in 1946. Later, he returned to the University of Georgia and took night classes and earned his bachelor's degree in commercial science from Atlanta Division of the University of Georgia in 1951. He married the former Doris Middlebrooks (1925-2015) of Hogansville, Georgia, in 1952.[2]

A lifelong Atlanta resident, Massell has had successful careers in real estate brokerage, elected office, tourism, and association management.[3]

For twenty years, Massell was a realtor, having become vice president of the Allan-Grayson Realty Company, then one of the largest commercial brokerage firms in Atlanta. During that time, he was elected a charter member of the "Million Dollar Club" of the Atlanta Real Estate Board. He was further honored on three occasions by the Georgia Association of Real Estate Boards for the "Outstanding Transaction of the Year."

While in real estate, Massell also became active in a wide range of civic work, which eventually led to the political arena. He served twenty-two years in elected offices, first as a city councilman in the town of Mountain Park, where he owned a lakehouse. He then went to serving on the Atlanta City Executive Committee and then ran to serve eight years as President of Atlanta's Board of Aldermen (now the City Council). He ran for Mayor of Atlanta in 1969 and won the race in a runoff.[4] Mayor Massell was also the president of the 15,000-member National League of Cities. In addition, he has served a four-year term on the board of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority. He was a board member of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games.

Among other achievements, his mayoral administration is credited with establishing the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, the Omni Coliseum (the first enclosed arena in Atlanta),[3] and Woodruff Park in Central City, all without higher ad valorem taxes. He also pioneered minority opportunities in city government, appointing the first woman to the Atlanta City Council and the first African Americans as municipal department heads. Conversely, Massell is also known to have used blatant anti-black rhetoric in his re-election bid for mayor against the city's first black mayoral candidate Maynard Jackson. As a result, many progressive and college-educated whites in the city (including Atlanta's largest daily newspaper) publicly endorsed Jackson which led to Massell losing his re-election in 1973 to Maynard Jackson.[5][6][7]

After leaving full-time public service, Massell entered the tourism business in Buckhead in the Atlanta metro area. For 13 years, Massell operated in Buckhead under the name "Your Travel Agent Sam Massell." He is a Certified Travel Counselor and a former president of the Travel Industry Association of Georgia.

Massell now manages a nonprofit civic organization as founding president of the Buckhead Coalition, an association of business executives on the north side of Atlanta. In addition, he is in the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau "Hospitality Hall of Fame;" International Civil Rights King 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 received an LL.B. degree in 1949 from Atlanta Law School. In 1971, he received an honorary degree in Doctor of Laws from Oglethorpe University.[8]

In 2016, the 89-year-old Massell wed his long-time friend Sandra Gordy in a private ceremony at their home in Buckhead.[9]

Charles McNair wrote a 304-page biography of Massell entitled Play It Again, Sam: The Notable Life of Sam Massell, Atlanta’s First Minority Mayor, which was published by Mercer University Press on September 1, 2017.[10]

In early 2020, Massell announced his plans to retire.[11]


  1. Kremer, Ray. "Interview with Sam Massell". The William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum. Retrieved 11 February 2020. 
  2. Freightman, C.G.. "Doris Massell, 89: Ex-mayor's wife was at ease with everyone". Retrieved 14 July 2017. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Lee Hall, 'Mayor of Buckhead' now perennial promoter, Atlanta Business Chronicle, November 12, 2004
  5. "Maynard Jackson (1938-2003)". 
  6. "Atlanta Elects a Black Mayor, First in a Major Southern City". 17 October 1973. 
  7. "Will America's 'Black Mecca' Elect a White Mayor?". 
  8. "Honorary Degrees Awarded by Oglethorpe University". Oglethorpe University. Archived from the original on 2015-03-19. Retrieved 2015-03-13. 
  9. Brett, Jennifer. "Exclusive: Former Atlanta Mayor Sam Massell weds at 89". Retrieved 14 July 2017. 
  10. "Mercer University Press: Play It Again, Sam: The Notable Life of Sam Massell, Atlanta's First Minority Mayor". 
  11. "Thank You, Sam – Honoring the Achievements of one of Buckhead's Most Dedicated Leaders" (in en-US). 2020-03-19. 


  • McNair, Charles. 2017. Play it Again Sam: The Notable Life of Atlanta's First Minority Mayor. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press.

External links

Preceded by
Ivan Allen Jr.
Mayor of Atlanta
January 1970 – January 1974
Succeeded by
Maynard Jackson

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