Jesse Hill Jr. Named Recipient of Ivan Allen Prize
Posted March 14, 2006 | Atlanta
Atlanta businessman and civil rights leader Jesse Hill Jr. has been named the recipient of the 2006 Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Progress and Service, according to Sue Rosser, dean of Georgia Tech's Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts. Hill, the first African-American recipient of the award, will be honored at the College's Founder's Day luncheon on March 15.
The Ivan Allen Prize is awarded annually to a distinguished public figure whose service over a lifetime has significantly contributed to the progress of the quality of life in Georgia. Previous recipients of the award include Will Wright, co-founder of Maxis and original designer of SimCity and The Sims computer games (2005); former Senator Sam Nunn, co-chairman and chief executive officer of the Nuclear Threat Initiative (2004); Molly Ivins, nationally syndicated columnist (2003); Jimmy Carter, former U.S. President and Georgia Governor (2002); and Zell Miller, former U.S. Senator and Georgia Governor (2001).
Ivan Allen College is named for Atlanta's legendary mayor, businessman and Tech alumnus, Ivan Allen Jr., who represented the essence of 'the New South' and, among other achievements, is credited with peacefully desegregating Atlanta during the tumultuous 1960s. Hill will be honored at the Founder's Day luncheon on March 15, an event that annually marks Mayor Allen's birthday.
Biography of Jesse Hill Jr.
Born in St. Louis, Missouri on May 30, 1926, Hill arrived in Atlanta in 1949 after completing a Bachelor of Science in math and physics from Lincoln University and an MBA in Actuarial Science from the University of Michigan. Joining the Atlanta Life Insurance Company initially as an actuarial assistant, Hill rose to become the firm's third president, chief executive officer, and chairman of the Executive Committee in 1973.
As an executive and CEO of the largest African-American owned financial institution in America, he continued to build upon the company's strong tradition of supporting human and civil rights activism. Over the course of his successful career, Hill has compiled a long list of 'door-opening firsts' for African-Americans.
Appointed by Mayor Allen to chair the bargaining committee that negotiated the purchase of what was to become Metropolitan Area Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), Hill was the first African American member to sit on MARTA's Board of Directors. He also was the first African-American selected to serve on the Board of Regents for the University System of Georgia. In 1977, he was elected president of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, the first African-American to hold such a position in a major U.S. city. He also was elected as the first black member of the Board of Trustees of the Commerce Club, the elite venue of Atlanta's previously all-white power structure.
In addition, Hill has served on the boards of a number of corporations, including Comsat, Delta Air Lines, Knight Ridder, Morse Shoes, National Service Industries, Rich's, S & H Corporation, and SunTrust, often as the first minority member. For the past 25 years, he has served as chairman of the Board of Governors Opportunity Funding Corporation (OFC), a Washington, D.C. based organization committed to promoting and facilitating the development of minority business enterprise.
During the 1960s, Hill directed his company to quietly underwrite civil rights initiatives throughout the South, such as providing bail money to release individuals arrested in sit-ins and other protests. For over fifteen years, he also served as chairman of the Board of Directors of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Social Change. In addition, Hill served on the Board of Directors and in various leadership capacities for the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Hill also founded The Atlanta Inquirer, the weekly newspaper that became the voice of the civil rights movement in Atlanta.
But it is as a political leader in the city of Atlanta that Hill has had perhaps his most lasting impact. Soon after his arrival, he quickly became acquainted with most of the key leaders of the city through the auspices of the Hungry Club. Located at the Butler Street YMCA where Hill first resided, the club provided the only forum at that time where black and white leaders could engage in serious dialogue on contemporary issues.
Head of virtually every major voter registration drive in the black community during the 60's, Hill chaired the All Citizens Registration Committee, precursor to a political organization that has since nurtured the careers of Atlanta's last four mayors. Consequently, he served as campaign chairman for Maynard Jackson, elected in 1973 as the first black mayor of a major city in the South; and Andrew Young, the first black elected to Congress from Georgia and the South since Reconstruction.
Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts
Ivan Allen College was founded in 1990, and today provides a forum for extending the traditional liberal arts into new fields that address the complex relationship between technology and society. Offering both undergraduate and graduate degrees, Ivan Allen College includes the Schools of Economics; History, Technology and Society; the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs; Literature, Communication and Culture; Modern Languages; and Public Policy, as well as Air Force, Army, and Navy Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) units.