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CAP Remembers Jesse Hill, Jr.

December 19,2012

One of Atlanta’s most influential business leaders — Jesse Hill Jr. — passed away Monday morning.

Hill, 86. was the retired CEO of CAP Member, Atlanta Life Insurance Co., for decades. He was one of a handful African-American businessmen who helped set the non-confrontational tone of race relations in the Atlanta business community.

In 1977, he became the first black president (now called the chairman) of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce (now called the Metro Atlanta Chamber). He was the first black member of the Georgia Board of Regents and the first black member of the board of the Rich’s Department Store.

Hill also was a key civil rights leader in Atlanta in the 1950s and 1960s, working with Martin Luther King Jr. on several initiatives including voting rights and voter registration in the black community. He helped desegregate the Atlanta Public Schools, and he was involved in the desegregation of the University System of Georgia.

Hill also had been instrumental in the formation of MARTA back in the early 1970s. And he served on the board of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Non-violent Social Change. He was a prominent supporter of several politicians, including the late Mayor Maynard Jackson and the candidacies of Andrew Young for both the U.S. House of Representatives and as Atlanta’s mayor.

“Nothing good and nothing of importance happened in this town that Jesse wasn’t somehow involved,” said Felker Ward, a leading African-American businessman in his own right. Ward said that if he could have had only one friend, that friend would have been Jesse Hill.

The stories of Hill are legendary.

“Jesse was a trail-blazer,” said Michael Russell of builder H.J Russell & Co., who proudly said that Hill was his godfather. “He has been such a tremendous asset to this community through his leadership at Atlanta Life and through his civic involvement.”

-Courtesy, Atlanta Business Chronicle