Atlanta is chock full of interesting movers and shakers, some bent on creativity, empire building, activism or just plain having fun and living the good life. Lean in to hear some of the off-the-cuff remarks about what makes Sam Massell tick.
From 1970 to 1974, Massell was the 53rd Atlanta mayor. He is the first Jewish and the last white mayor in the city’s history. A lifelong Atlanta resident, Massell had successful careers in real estate brokerage, elected office, tourism and association management.
Among other achievements, his mayoral administration is credited with establishing the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, the Omni Coliseum (the first enclosed arena in Atlanta), and Woodruff Park in downtown Atlanta, without adding higher ad valorem taxes.
After leaving full-time public service, Massell entered the tourism business and operated in Buckhead under the name “Your Travel Agent Sam Massell.” He is a Certified Travel Counselor and a former president of the Travel Industry Association of Georgia.
Massell recently retired as founding president of the Buckhead Coalition, an association of business executives. He is in the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau Hospitality Hall of Fame; International Civil Rights Walk of Fame; Georgia State University Robinson College of Business Hall of Fame, Georgia Trend magazine Most Influential Georgians Hall of Fame, and Georgia Municipal Association Municipal Government Hall of Fame.
Charles McNair wrote a 304-page biography of Massell entitled “Play It Again, Sam: The Notable Life of Sam Massell, Atlanta’s First Minority Mayor,” which was published in 2017.
A relative “second time around newlywed,” Sam stays relevant and in the public eye. Read on to see how he sold a dead tree for $10,000.
Jaffe: If I could have another talent, it would be …
Massell: Playing snare drums. I got kicked out of the band in high school and need to start over.
Jaffe: I was star stuck meeting:
Massell: Dorothy Lamour. I then realized that Atlanta has just as many beautiful women here already.
Jaffe: My most exotic vacation was:
Massell: Las Brisas, in private pools, private sunshine. I was swimming nude when an earthquake happened. Could have been washed down the mountain naked.
Jaffe: The last time I danced:
Massell: Last night Sandra and I took a step or two … “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You.”
Jaffe: My guilty pleasure:
Massell: Sex, but people don’t like to talk about it. Never have gotten over calories in ice cream; not any calories in sex though.
Jaffe: The best advice I gave my kids
Massell: “Two heads are better than one, even if one is a cabbage head” was told to me by grandfather Sol Rubin.
Jaffe: One fun thing people don’t know about me is…
Massell: I have a bundle of wit I haven’t used.
Jaffe: If they made a movie of my life, I would choose to play the lead:
Massell: Martin Sheen knows how to play a politician and has charisma.
Jaffe: My wife would say I am too…
Massell: My Jewish genes push me into “help mode” all the time, even when not needed.
Jaffe: My favorite cocktail is …
Massell: Chopin Vodka martini, olive on the side … hard to come by. Purely deluxe.
Jaffe: Looking back, the best real estate deal I ever made was …
Massell: Selling a dead tree for $10,000 to an outdoor sign company where the Shepherd Center is now. They paid me instead of me paying [to have it removed].
- Marcia Caller Jaffe
- The Lowdown
- Sam Massell
- Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority
- Omni Coliseum
- Woodruff Park
- Travel Agent
- Certified Travel Counselor
- Travel Industry Association of Georgia
- Buckhead Coalition
- Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau Hospitality Hall of Fame
- International Civil Rights Walk of Fame
- Georgia State University Robinson College of Business Hall of Fame
- Georgia Trend magazine Most Influential Georgians Hall of Fame
- Georgia Municipal Association Municipal Government Hall of Fame
- Charles McNair
- Dorothy Lamour
- Sandra Massell
- Martin Sheen
- Shepherd Center