Former Atlanta Mayor Sam Massell Interview on the Buckhead Business Show
Sam Massell, Founding President
The Buckhead Coalition
Sam Massell, a life-long resident of Atlanta, has had successful
careers in real estate brokerage, elected office, the field of tourism, and
He spent twenty years as a Realtor, becoming Vice President of
Allan-Grayson Realty Company, then one of the city’s largest commercial
brokerage firms. During that time, he was elected a charter member of the
Atlanta Real Estate Board’s Million Dollar Club and was honored three
times with the Cates Trophy by the Georgia Association of Real Estate
Boards for creating the “Outstanding Transaction of the Year.”
While in real estate, Massell became extremely active in a wide range
of civic work, which eventually led to the political arena. He served twenty-
two years in elected offices, including eight as President of Atlanta’s Board
of Aldermen (now known as the City Council) and four as this city’s Mayor.
While holding that office, he was also chosen as 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, and
was a Board Member of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games.
Among other achievements, his administration as Mayor is credited
with establishing MARTA (Atlanta’s mass transit program), with developing
the city’s first enclosed arena (the Omni Coliseum), and with providing the
“Five Points” Central City Woodruff Park, all with no call on ad valorem
taxes. He also pioneered minority opportunities in city government,
appointing the first female to Atlanta’s City Council and the first Blacks as
City Department heads.
After leaving full-time public service, he entered the tourism business
in Buckhead where he operated for thirteen years under the name of Your
Travel Agent Sam Massell. He is a Certified Travel Counselor (CTC), and
a former President of the Travel Industry Association of Georgia.
Mayor Massell now manages a nonprofit civic organization as the
1988 founding President of the Buckhead Coalition. This is a prestigious
association of Chief Executive Officers of major businesses in this area on
the north side of Atlanta who have pooled their strengths to nurture the
quality of life and guide the orderly growth of Buckhead.
He has been honored by induction into the Atlanta Convention and
Visitors Bureau “Hospitality Hall of Fame”; Georgia Municipal Association
“Government Hall of Fame”; Georgia State University Robinson College
“Business Hall of Fame”; Georgia Trend Magazine “Most Influential
Georgian’s Hall of Fame”, and International Civil Rights King Center “Walk
of Fame”. His life is chronicled in a biography (“Play It Again, Sam”) by
Charles McNair and Mercer University Press.
Topics to Discuss:
Why did you decide to do a book – – and why did you choose this author?
How did your childhood days in elementary and high school at Druid Hills shape
your civil conscience?
The book tells of a successful college political campaign that sounds
unbelievable . . . until we hear the “other side of the story”. Will you elaborate?
You won a lot of top awards in real estate. Tell us about one of which you were
What drew you into the political arena, and if you had the chance to do it all over,
would you have pursued a more lucrative business career instead?
I’ve learned that one of your earliest Atlanta political reforms was elimination of
something called “Ward Courtesy”, which isn’t in the book. Please explain this
What do you consider your greatest decision; what do you wish to be your
legacy; what was your worst political mistake?
How in the world did you get in the tourism business, and was it satisfying?
You’re credited with nurturing what was thought of as not much more than a
sleepy, suburban bedroom-community and branding it to a thriving second
Downtown of Atlanta. Tell us a bit about how it was done.
What motivates you (that has resulted in such an extensive list of
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