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Massell, Sam Jr.


MASSELL, SAM JR. (1927– ), U.S. lawyer and politician. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Massell received his Bachelor of Commercial Science degree from Georgia State University and a Bachelor of Laws from Atlanta Law School. He served as a flying instructor in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War ii. He worked in the commercial real estate industry for 20 years and 13 in the travel business before stepping into the political arena. In 1961 he made his first attempt to win public office and was elected to the office of vice-mayor as a Democrat. He held the position until 1969 when he was elected Atlanta's youngest and first Jewish mayor with a victory margin provided by a white liberal and poor black coalition. In the course of the campaign Massell charged that members of the "power structure," meaning the corporations and civic groups who had long ruled Atlanta, were antisemitic. He served as mayor until 1974, when he lost the re-election.

From 1988 Massell was the president of the Buckhead Coalition, a group of ceos of major companies in Buckhead, an upscale area of Atlanta. Serving as a chamber of commerce for the neighborhood, the coalition's first successful project, in 1989, was to have Georgia Highway 400 extended through Buckhead. Massell also spearheaded the creation of the Community Improvement District in Buckhead, wherein business property owners impose taxes on themselves to improve the community and then seek matching federal grants.

Active in Jewish affairs, Massell was a member of the American Jewish Committee, Jewish War Veterans, and the B'nai B'rith. He was also instrumental in breaking down ethnic and religious barriers in his community, bringing the Reform community together with the Conservative and Orthodox, as well as reaching out to help integrate the Sephardic and Russian populations.

[Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]

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