Former Atlanta Mayor and Buckhead Coalition President Sam Massell Dies at 94

by Julia Sanders

ATLANTA — Sam Massell, the former mayor of Atlanta and president of the Buckhead Coalition, passed away on Sunday, March 13 at the age of 94. From 1970 to 1974, Massell served as Atlanta’s 53rd mayor and was Atlanta’s first Jewish mayor.

He later was known as the unofficial mayor of Buckhead and in 1988 founded the Buckhead Coalition, a private nonprofit organization that today comprises 124 civic and business leaders. Massell stepped down as the president of the Buckhead Coalition in 2020 at age 92.

Born and raised in Atlanta, Massell attended Georgia State University where he earned a business degree, and then got a law degree from Atlanta Law School, according to The Atlanta-Journal Constitution. The newspaper reported he also attended the University of Georgia and Emory University for a year apiece.

Massell entered the real estate business in 1951 with a specialty of leasing office space to doctors. He was a realtor for 20 years, and during that time he was honored three times by the Georgia Association of Real Estate Boards with its “Transaction of the Year” award.

In addition to being the Atlanta mayor, Massell also served eight years as president of Atlanta’s Board of Aldermen, which is now known as the Atlanta City Council.

During his time presiding over the Buckhead Coalition, Massell led the creation of the Buckhead Community Improvement District in 1999, which has raised over $90 million in self-imposed taxes for the development of Buckhead, according to the organization’s website. He also pushed for the development of Ga. Highway 400 and the connecting ramp between the highway and Interstate 85.

A spokesperson for Massell’s family says that a funeral will be held Wednesday, March 16, according to The AJC. He is survived by his wife, three children and three grandchildren.

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