BY CHARLOTTE MARCUS / AJT //
On its 25th anniversary, the Buckhead Coalition celebrated at the World Congress Center in grand fashion, holding an honorary dinner for former Atlanta mayor Sam Massell.
Today, Massell is known as the “Mayor of Buckhead,” an appropriate nickname for the man who coordinated the growth of one of the city’s most affluent neighborhoods as leader of the Buckhead Coalition for the past quarter-century. Under his guidance, the Coalition has helped to create a dynamic, thriving area out of what was once a simple village a little north of downtown.
Sam’s unbelievable efforts and fabulous personality can be seen all over the district (loosely defined as the Peachtree/Roswell Rd. corridor between West Wieuca Rd. and Peachtree Hills Ave.). No longer a sleepy little section, Buckhead is now a booming metropolitan area with growing pains of its own.
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It was before Lenox Square was expanded, when Phipps Plaza didn’t exist, when Interstate 400 was perhaps just a plan on a Department of Transportation drawing board; when MARTA did not even venture so far north, that Sam was hired by the Coalition to coordinate the growth of business in the area.
Indeed, by the time he finished his term as mayor in Atlanta, he had made the city into much more than it was before. We may already have been regarded as the “capital of the South,” but Sam made serious changes in attitudes and progress in the relationships. He brought to the job his experience in business and real estate – the same skills that now bring better services and commercial growth to Buckhead, where even more people and businesses prosper.
More than a Mogul
Of course, his accomplishments demonstrate more than just executive skills; Massell also has a caring heart and a vibrant personality to combine with knowledge and wisdom. Also, everyone that knows Sam appreciates his special sense of humor and his youthful smile; he sometimes acts like he’s still that kid who went to Druid Hills High.
A perfect example of his penchant for levity came at the recent honorary dinner. First, many people gave speeches of praise and listed examples of his many great contributions. Eventually, Sam got up from the table where he had been seated with his family: his wife Doris; his two daughters Melanie and Cindy; his son Steve; and his grandchildren.
He was assisted to the stage using the handy cane he recently acquired to keep him mobile despite a hip problem (and perhaps a few extra pounds), then helped to a chair behind the podium. Speaking into the microphone to the hundreds gathered to honor him at this special occasion, he raised his cane and with an almost impish grin said:
“You see this cane? Everyone should have one. You can buy one, too, for $49.95 at your local drugstore.
“It’s the best deal I ever made! Everywhere I go now, people open the door, pull back my chair and help me sit down!”
The huge crowd roared with laughter. That’s the Sam I know. The little man with the fabulous smile and a Caesar-like stature – in truth, an icon, though he never acts in such a way.
Towards the end of the evening, Melanie – who is a professional singer and now lives in Florida – serenaded her beaming father with an appropriate song.
She sang Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”