Jesse Hill Jr: Activist who worked in the civil rights movement with Martin Luther King

 

Jesse Hill Jr, who died on 17 December at the age of 86, was a civil rights leader and businessman who later became the first black president of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. Hill had a close relationship with Dr Martin Luther King Jr and helped make sure his legacy would be remembered.

"He was very instrumental in developing the growth of the King Center and really a giant in Atlanta civic affairs," said Steve Klein, a spokesman for the King Center, where Hill served as chairman of the board of directors from 1979 to 1993. "I don't think you could think of a major civic project in Atlanta for the last 20 or 30 years that he wasn't involved in."

Hill was born in St Louis in May 1926 and graduated from Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, with a degree in mathematics and physics, and he subsequently earned a master's in actuarial science from the University of Michigan. He joined the Atlanta Life Insurance Company in 1949 and eventually became the company's president and CEO. He retired in 1990.

Hill was named the head of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce - now called the Metro Atlanta Chamber, in 1978. Hill participated in several economic trade missions to Europe on behalf of the chamber and accompanied President Jimmy Carter on a trade mission to Nigeria.

In 1960, Hill helped create the Atlanta Inquirer, the city's first newspaper for the African-American community, which covered the civil rights protests of that decade. He served as publisher until 1985. The Inquirer's deputy editor David Stokes sai d, "He helped, along with some of the preachers in the heyday of the civil rights movement, to raise money for bond when civil rights workers were incarcerated."

Hill was also a board member on the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. "Jesse Hill represented leadership from the corporate community, which gave financial support and authenticity to the movement for social change," Dr Bernard LaFayette, the group's chairman, said. "His wealth of corporate contacts convinced business and political leaders that we were going to jail for the right reasons."

Hill also worked in voter registration initiatives and helped desegregate Atlanta Public Schools, as well as the University System of Georgia. In 2008 he was inducted into the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame.

The Mayor of Atlanta, Kasim Reed, said Hill was an essential figure in bridging the historical divide between the business community and the African-American community: "Atlanta would not be what it is today without his extraordinary contributions," he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Manager

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity to...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Manager - Production

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Managers are required to join the UK's...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Manager

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will maximise the effective...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss