Chamblee54

William B. Hartsfield

Posted in Uncategorized by chamblee54 on April 24, 2010


As you may have noticed, this blog uses a lot of pictures from ” Special Collections and Archives,Georgia State University Library”. There is one face which keeps turning up, always seeming to find the camera. This is the face of William Berry Hartsfield, the Mayor of Atlanta between 1937-1941, then again between 1942-1961. He is the namesake of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and Willie B, the gorilla at Zoo Atlanta. Mr. Hartsfield is one of the reasons ATL airport is the aviation powerhouse that it is. He probably had little to do with the conception of Willie B, although one can never be too sure.

Mr. Hartsfield was born March 1, 1890, in Atlanta. He did not finish high school or attend college. At 25, he began work as a legal secretary, reading law journals at night. Mr. Hartsfield was admitted to the Georgia Bar.

In 1909, Coca Cola mogul Asa Griggs Candler bought some land near Hapeville, GA, and built a racetrack. There was only one season of racing ( with an appearance from Barney Oldfield), before the track was shut down. There was a series of aviation exhibitions on the site in the following years, and talk of using the land as an airport.

In 1922, William Hartsfield was elected to the Atlanta City Council, and started to promote the idea of an airport. The 285 acres of the Candler racetrack was leased in 1925, On April 13, 1929, the city bought the land for “Candler Field” for $94,400. During World War II , Candler Field was declared an army air base, and doubled in size.

In 1936, Mr. Hartsfield defeated incumbent James Key to become Mayor of Atlanta. He guided the city through the last years of the depression, only to be defeated by Roy LeCraw in 1940. When Mr. LeCraw was called into military service after Pearl Harbor, Mr. Hartsfield won a special election for the Mayor’s job. He held the job until the election of Ivan Allen in 1961.

Atlanta grew tremendously during the Hartsfield years. During the civil rights era, it kept a cool head, and integrated the schools peacefully in August 1961 ( After Mr. Hartsfield had announced his retirement) He was a tireless promoter, both of himself and the city. It was said that if Atlanta could suck as hard as it blows, then the oceans would be pulled up to the borders, and Atlanta would be a seaport.

Mr. Hartsfield was the ideal mayor for this up and coming town. He never met a camera he did not like. The metropolitan area went over a million people shortly before his retirement, and “city of a million people” was a new motto.

William B. Hartsfield died February 22, 1971. On the way to his eternal destination, he changed planes in Atlanta.

10 Responses

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  1. hanna carson said, on January 21, 2011 at 9:34 am

    imm reseraching him during a research in school. .

    • Anonymous said, on March 22, 2011 at 12:21 pm

      ahhh me too.. can you help me? who are people associated with him?

      • chamblee54 said, on March 22, 2011 at 1:51 pm

        I don’t know. If you go to the page “historic pictures”, you will see instructions for getting more information about individual pictures. Most of the pictures do not have much information.

  2. george said, on March 18, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    AHHHH HE IS SCARY

  3. Anonymous said, on February 21, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    when and how did he die?

    • chamblee54 said, on February 21, 2012 at 4:14 pm

      Mr. Hartsfield died February 22, 1971. I don’t know the cause.

  4. Atlanta Rising | Chamblee54 said, on April 24, 2013 at 11:41 am

    […] does not mention Ben Fortson’s wheelchair cushion. The mayor at the start of the story is William B. Hartsfield. “Willie B” was a leader in creating the Atlanta Airport, and in building it into the […]

  5. Atlanta Rising | Chamblee54 said, on April 28, 2014 at 5:11 am

    […] does not mention Ben Fortson’s wheelchair cushion. The mayor at the start of the story is William B. Hartsfield. “Willie B” was a leader in creating the Atlanta Airport, and in building it into the […]

  6. Write In Candidates | Chamblee54 said, on October 25, 2016 at 12:58 pm

    […] Zoo Atlanta. Willie B who left the cage February 2, 2000, is the namesake of former Atlanta Mayor William Berry Hartsfield. The former mayor, who never met a camera he did not like, is the co-namesake of Hartsfield Latoya […]

  7. William B. Hartsfield | Chamblee54 said, on April 3, 2018 at 3:54 pm

    […] had little to do with the conception of Willie B, although one can never be too sure. This is a repost. Mr. Hartsfield was born March 1, 1890, in Atlanta. He did not finish high school or attend […]


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