William B. Hartsfield collection

William B. Hartsfield collection

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Hargrett Manuscripts
Creator: Hartsfield, William Berry
Title: William B. Hartsfield collection
Dates: 1893-1981
Quantity: 4.2 Linear feet (1 document box, 2 half boxes, 2 oversized boxes)
Coll. Number: ms2303

Biographical/Historical Note

William B. Hartsfield was a man of humble origins who became one of the greatest mayors of Atlanta. He served as mayor for six terms (1937-41, 1942-61), longer than any other person in the city's history. Hartsfield held office during a critical period when the color line separating the races began to change and the city grew from more than 100,000 inhabitants to a metropolitan population of one million. He is credited with developing Atlanta into the aviation powerhouse that it is today and with building its image as "the City Too Busy to Hate." The youngest of three sons, William Berry Hartsfield was born March 1, 1890, to Charles Green Hartsfield and Victoria Dagnall Hartsfield in Atlanta. He was educated in the Atlanta public school system but did not finish high school or attend college. He married Pearl Williams on August 2, 1913. They had two children, William Berry Jr. and Mildred. In 1962, after nearly fifty years of marriage, they divorced. On July 11, 1962, Hartsfield married Tollie Bedenbaugh Tolan of Athens, and he later adopted her son, Carl. At the age of twenty-five, Hartsfield became the secretary and law clerk at the law firm of Rosser, Slaton, Phillips, and Hopkins. He worked in the law offices during the day and read legal journals and books at night. His studies paid off when he was admitted to the Georgia Bar on July 7, 1917. In 1921 he left the firm and opened his own law office. Hartsfield was elected to the Atlanta City Council in 1922. As an alderman, he helped establish Atlanta's first airport, advancing the goal of the city to become the aviation hub of the Southeast. As a member of a subcommittee of the finance committee, he played a prominent role in the selection of Candler Speedway's 287 acres south of Atlanta near Hapeville for a landing field for airplanes. The city leased the Candler site in 1925. Hartsfield believed that Atlanta's future lay in air transportation and took the lead in promoting it throughout his political career. In 1936 Hartsfield defeated the aging incumbent mayor, James L. Key. When Hartsfield took office in January 1937, Atlanta was in poor financial condition. To boost the city out of this crisis, he called on the downtown business leaders, including Robert Woodruff, president of the Coca-Cola Company, for assistance. Woodruff absorbed the full amount of the December 1936 city payroll. Hartsfield also persuaded the Georgia General Assembly to establish a model budget system. The new system would not let the city budget exceed more than 99 percent of the receipts of the previous year. Because the city council did not allocate more than 95 percent of those receipts, the city had a cash carryover each year. By the close of 1938, the city gradually began to recover from effects of the depression. On September 4, 1940, Hartsfield was defeated by Roy Le Craw. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Mayor Le Craw, a major in the Georgia National Guard, resigned his office and reported for active duty. Hartsfield won a May 27, 1942, special election and remained in office until 1961, winning election for four more terms. Hartsfield continued his policy of fiscal restraint and guided the city through World War II (1941-45). In 1946, with the outlawing of the Georgia white primary and the opening of the electoral system to black political participation, Hartsfield developed a gradualist approach to race relations by building a biracial coalition for winning municipal elections. The strategy proved to be very useful as the city experienced the beginning of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and the racial unrest of the early 1960s. The nation experienced racial turmoil when Virginia, Little Rock, Arkansas, and New Orleans, Louisiana, attempted school desegregation, and Atlanta under Hartsfield calmly waited its turn. On August 30, 1961, the city peacefully integrated its public schools. As a result, Atlanta began to acquire its reputation as "A City Too Busy to Hate." On December 31, 1951, Hartsfield was elected vice president of the American Municipal Association, the national organization of mayors, and later served as its president. In 1952 he led the campaign to win passage of the Plan of Improvement that promoted the annexation of suburban territory. Atlanta tripled in size from 37 to 128 square miles, which added an estimated 100,000 people to the city's population. Hartsfield also oversaw the building of the expressway system and the construction of several city parks. After more than thirty years of public service, on June 7, 1961, Hartsfield announced he would not seek reelection. Following his retirement, he was named mayor emeritus of Atlanta. He became a consultant for the Coca-Cola Company, the Trust Company of Georgia, and the Georgia Power Company. For a brief time he was also an editorial commentator on WSB television. In 1962 he was chosen president of the Southeastern Fair Association. Hartsfield died on February 22, 1971. A week later, the Atlanta City Council honored him by renaming the Atlanta airport the William B. Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport (later Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport). New Georgia Encyclopedia - William B. Hartsfield (1890-1971) http://www.newgeorgiaencyclopedia.com (Retrieved October 21, 2009)

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of photographic material, books and magazines, correspondence, scrapbooks, clippings, literary productions, legal documents, and awards related to and authored by William B. Hartsfield. Some of the items included are a series of Airport papers, Hartsfield genealogy, Gone with the wind movie premiere videotape and film, campaign stickers, birth records, campaign posters, and a collection of William B. Hartsfield's annual messages.


Arranged in chronological order.

Index Terms

Atlanta (Ga.)--History--20th century.
Atlanta (Ga.)--Politics and government--20th century.
Campaign paraphernalia--Georgia--Atlanta.
Clippings (information artifacts)
Gone with the wind (Motion picture)
Hartsfield, William Berry -- Correspondence
Hartsfield, William Berry -- Family
Hartsfield, William Berry -- Photographs
Legal documents.
William B. Hartsfield-Atlanta International Airport. -- History

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

William B. Hartsfield collection, 1893-1981. MS 2303. Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, The University of Georgia Libraries.

Series Descriptions and Folder Listing

11Removed Materials, 1962
Two biographies (one signed) of Robert W. Winfield and one map of metropolitan Atlanta.
1aHartsfield Genealogy, 1700
Two birth affidavits, several letters, and several lineage charts.
2Correspondence, 1925-1970
3Correspondence, 1971-1981
4Miscellaneous Papers, 1953-1971
5WBH's Annual Messages, 1922-1962
6Atlanta Race Relations, 1964-1968
A WBH newspaper article, a Rutgers University study, "Sit-ins in Atlanta: A Study in the Negro Revolt," and two magazines.
7Airport Papers, 1970
Contains "The Importance to Atlanta of Maintaining its Position as the Dominant Airline Hub of the Southeast."
8Airport Papers, 1970-1975
Includes a 1970 "Summary Report on Feasibility of Transportation Center at Existing Airport to Serve Second Atlanta Air Carrier Field."
9Banquet Programs, 1960-1980
10Atlanta\Georgia Election Year Printed Material
21Magazines, 1950-1962
Articles on WBH's life and work.
2Miscellaneous Printed Material, 1946-1959
WBH's Supreme Court petition, a congratulatory message from Munich to Atlanta concerning Atlanta's reaching the 1,000,000 population plateau, and a souvenir book from Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, CA.
3Miscellaneous Printed Material, 1964-1969
Article on the city of Atlanta, and the "Atlanta Stadium Feasibility Report."
2Miscellaneous Photos, 1940-1976
Political Engagements, friends.
3Miscellaneous Photos, no date
4Southeastern Fair Association, 1963-1970
Many photos, some papers (WBH was president of this association).
OS Box
4Commemorative Brochure of the 1969 Apollo XI moon mission, and various newspapers. Gone with the wind movie premiere-videotape & film, (1925-1967)
OS Box
5Various printed printed materials-books, brochures, pamphlets, surveys, (1952)
including the collected speeches of Adlai Stevenson