Atlanta Business, Government and Civil Rights Leaders Remember Jesse Hill Jr.

atlanta@adw.com | 12/18/2012, 10 a.m.

When Jesse Hill, Jr. the retired CEO of the Atlanta Life Insurance Co. and a legendary civil rights activist, passed away yesterday the city of Atlanta mourned him. Leaders in civil rights, business and local as well as state government all had their lives impacted by the late business executive and community leader.

"Today, the City of Atlanta mourns the passing of an exemplar in business and civic leadership," said Mayor Kasim Reed in a statement. "Jesse Hill Jr. was an essential figure in bridging the divide between the business community and the African American community in our city. His legacy lives on and his tireless passion for empowering generations of Americans continues.

"I stand as a personal beneficiary of his great work," Reed continued. "His passing is very sad for me personally and for this city. Atlanta would not be what it is today without Jesse Hill Jr.'s extraordinary contributions. We have all of his family members in our prayers and in our hearts."

In addition to his pioneering success in business and his work with the Atlanta Life Insurance Co., Hill worked closely with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference that King helped found. Representatives from the organization remembered how integral Hill was to the group's mission.

"Mr. Jesse Hill, Jr. played a vital and significant role in the civil rights movement, " said Dr. Bernard LaFayette, Chairman of the SCLC. "Jesse Hill represented leadership from the corporate community which gave financial support and authenticity to the movement for social change. That support gave us credibility and confidence that we could achieve our goals... Jesse Hill's influence was also instrumental in helping Mrs. Coretta Scott King get the Martin Luther King Jr. Center established."

Representatives from the King Center heralded Hill's involvement in the center's founding and success.

"Mr. Hill's numerous contributions to the growth and development of the King Center, as our Board chairman from 1979-93 and as a volunteer, were instrumental in all that we have been able to achieve over the years," said Dexter Scott King, chairman of The King Center. "His energetic example of dedication to the legacy of my father and mother remains an inspiration to us all."

Christine King Farris, Rev. Martin Luther King's oldest living relative, added, "I join with thousands of Atlantans in mourning the death of my dear friend Mr. Jesse Hill, Jr. It would be hard to exaggerate his remarkable contributions to Atlanta and to The King Center. He gave tirelessly of his time and talents to The King Center and to so many humanitarian causes, and his contributions have benefited countless thousands of our fellow citizens. Even in retirement, Mr. Hill continued to work closely with The King Center. His death leaves a great void in our hearts, and we send our love and support to his family."

Hill was also the creator of The Atlanta Inquirer and his passing was reported to the Daily World by David Stokes, Deputy Editor of the paper. No cause of death was given.