The 86 year-old father, grand-father, businessman, and civil rights icon, Jesse Hill Jr., passed away today December 17th with his family at his side.
Since the news has begun to spread, various SW Atlanta individuals have called Cascade Patch to express their thoughts on the legendary man, including a letter from one of his good friends, Congressman John Lewis.
Maynard Eaton, who is an author, successful journalist and political activist said that, "Jesse was a guru! He was a major business factor in Atlanta. When White people wanted to know what was going on within the Black community, they went to him. Just as Maynard Jackson was the leader in Black politics in Atlanta, Jesse was the go-to guy in the Black business arena."
In the upcoming book that Eaton is releasing next year entitled, "100 Years of Black Atlanta Heritage", Jesse Hill is said to be featured extensively because, "there was nothing (in Atlanta) he didn't touch or dictate to," says Eaton.
The past 10-12 years, Mr. Hill was seen less as age and sickness began to catch up to him, but he fought that as he fought everything else in his life. It is both a sad and a joyous occasion for Hill to now be on his home-going journey. No word has been released on the cause of death, but those close to him say he was getting old naturally as all of us hope to do someday.
A former co-worker of Mr. Hill's at the Economic Opportunity Atlanta in the late 1960's, Bunnie Jackson-Ransom had this to share:
When I first came to Atlanta, I worked at Economic Opportunity Atlanta (EOA) in 1966. My role was to staff the EOA Board of Directors, Chairperson of their Community Development Committee. Jesse Hill was chair of this committee. He was one of the most dedicated men I have ever met; always on the go; always full of new ideas. Working within the community, with community leaders, to bring relevant projects and programs into neighborhoods that needed help. I learned a lot from Mr. Hill, most of all I learned the value grass roots opinions coming from those who lived within the community we served - Bunnie Jackson-Ransom, President and CEO of First Class, Inc.
The messages of condolence continued to flood our Cascade Patch inbox, and as Dr. Bernard LaFayette, Chairman of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference [SCLC] grieved he sent this brief message:
Mr. Jesse Hill, Jr. played a vital and significant role in the civil rights movement. 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. His wealth of corporate contacts convinced business and political leaders that we were going to jail for the right reasons. Jesse Hill's influence was also instrumental in helping Mrs. Coretta Scott King get the Martin Luther King Jr. Center established.
One of Atlanta's local bloggers that also contributes to Cascade Patch, Kupenda Auset, said of Hill that, "his passing is part of the end of an era. I feel a strong shift, a changing of the guard." She continued, "having grown up in SW Atlanta, there are certain people whose names and contributions are a regular part of what Atlanta (has become). When those movers and shakers fall, you can't help but feel it."
Jesse Hill was the CEO and President of the Atlanta Life Insurance Company. It became the largest black-owned life insurance company in the nation under Hill's watch. According to the Atlanta Daily World, "he also was one one of the leading figures to desegregate APS and the University System of Georgia."
Please use our comments section below to express your thoughts and views of Mr. Jesse Hill Jr.
The AJC has put together a nice "Life in Photos" gallery of Mr. Jesse Hill Jr.