Dec 17, 2012



(AJC) -- Jesse Hill Jr., former head of Atlanta Life Insurance Co., has died.

A native of St. Louis, Hill was first black president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and the first black member of the university system’s Board of Regents. He never held public office, but he counseled nearly everyone who served in high positions in Georgia, from Jimmy Carter to city councilmen — making Hill, at times, a sort-of one-man shadow government.

In a period of historic ferment over civil rights and the changing dynamics of Atlanta, Hill showed uncommon leadership. He helped finance and advise civil-rights leaders, including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.; served as confidant to the city’s first black mayor, Maynard Jackson; and tackled assignments as diverse as the launch of MARTA and the integration of the Atlanta public schools and the University of Georgia. He played an especially important role in forging understanding and alliances between local black and white leaders.

Arrangements are pending.

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