Wednesday, January 30, 2013

C  I  T  Y    O  F    A  T  L  A  N  T  A

atlanta city council reflects on the life of civil rights icon and business leader jesse hill jr

ATLANTA – Members of the Atlanta City Council today mourned the loss of retired Atlanta Life Insurance Company CEO Jesse Hill, Jr.  Hill passed away this morning at the age of 86.

Hill joined Atlanta Life Insurance Company in 1949 and was named president and CEO of the company in 1973, serving as chairman until his retirement in 1995.  In 1977, Hill became president of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, the first African American to hold the position.  He utilized his influence within the business community to advance the cause of civil rights in Atlanta.

Hill’s contributions to the city are numerous and profound.  Hill led efforts to fully integrate the University System of Georgia; increase African American voter registration numbers; and to expand African American access to affordable mortgages.

Hill advised former Mayors Maynard Jackson and Andrew Young in capacities both official and unofficial.  He was integral in bringing the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games to Atlanta.

He was a founding director on the board of MARTA and the first African American to serve on the University System of Georgia Board of Regents.  The Atlanta Inquirer newspaper owes its existence to his stewardship.

In 2001, the city of Atlanta renamed Butler Street between John Wesley Dobbs and Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive to Jesse Hill, Jr. Drive in his honor.

Members of the Atlanta City Council released the following statements on the passing of Hill:

“I was deeply saddened at the news of Mr. Hill’s death. I am thankful for his influence on the African-American civic and business communities. He will be remembered as one of Atlanta’s greatest leaders.  His legacy will live on through entrepreneurs, civic and business professionals, not only here in our city, but across the nation.” – Atlanta City Council President Ceasar C. Mitchell

“My heart is heavy to learn of the passing of the great Mr. Jesse Hill, Jr.  I join the rest of the nation in mourning this pioneering leader.  He was one of the greatest leaders in Atlanta’s history.  From the era of Mayor Hartsfield to that of Mayor Reed, of the transformative leaders that made Atlanta what it is today, Jesse Hill, Jr. was the greatest.  We are impoverished by his loss, but our spirits are inspired by his life’s example.” – Michael Julian Bond, Post 1 At-Large

“Jesse Hill, Jr. is going to be missed by many as one of the city’s outstanding visionaries and leaders who has an important role in history as a activist for civil rights.  He paid his dues to so many important causes and for that we are thankful. As we make decisions, we will always keep him as a reference point of a positive example by which to lead.” –C.T. Martin, District 10

“Mr. Hill was truly an iconic figure in Atlanta.  As I went through some of the notes between him and my family, I reflected on the tremendous work he did for the Butler Street YMCA.  He possessed a memory and mind on par with the latest big data supercomputers.  If you ever had a meeting with him, you had better be prepared before, during, and after.  He will be truly missed. I am so appreciative of what he did not only for me personally, but for the African American community, Atlanta as a whole, and in particular for the Butler Street Y. My thoughts and prayers will remain with his family.” – Kwanza Hall, District 2

“I feel lucky to have had the privilege to meet and talk with Mr. Jesse Hill Jr. on several occasions.  He was one of Atlanta’s great business and civic leaders for a number of decades, whose passion for this city was second to none.  I am saddened by our city’s loss, as we owe Mr. Hill a great debt of gratitude for his service.” – H. Lamar Willis, Post 3 At-Large

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of Mr. Hill.  He truly loved this city and passionately did all he could to make it a better place.  His legacy of dedication and service is an example for all to follow.” – Keisha Lance Bottoms, District 11