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William Berry Hartsfield papers

Identifier: Manuscript Collection No. 558

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of the papers of William B. Hartsfield from circa 1860-1983. The papers include personal papers, correspondence, subject files, writings by Hartsfield (speeches and articles), pamphlets, newspaper clippings, magazine articles, photographs, memorabilia, and audiovisual materials. The bulk of the collection dates from the mid-1930s to the time of his death in 1971.

The Hartsfield papers document Hartsfield's political, business, and personal life. Materials relating to his 23 years as mayor are extensive and can be found in every series. Particularly valuable are the election materials in Series 3: Election files, which include notes about campaign tactics, correspondence, literature, and financial records for his seven mayoral elections. The personal papers, correspondence, subject files, and photograph series illustrate the importance politics played in his life. Hartsfield's business interests are revealed in Series 1: Personal papers and Series 6: Personal Business records. Material relating to his personal life, including family correspondence and financial records, is in Series 1: Personal papers.

Other topics covered by the papers are the growth of commercial aviation in Atlanta; annexation of Buckhead and Sandy Springs; Chattahoochee River development and the building of the Buford Dam to assure the city's water supply; the 1939 Gone with The Wind premiere; race relations in the city in the 1940s, 1950s, and early 1960s (from hiring the first black policemen to integrating Atlanta schools); Hartsfield's fight to prevent the fluoridation of Atlanta's water; the growth of performing arts in Atlanta; and, in general, the evolution of Atlanta into a major metropolitan area.

Major correspondents include political and business leaders of Atlanta, Georgia, governors, senators, congressmen, national political figures, and persons active in the motion picture and mining industries. Among the names represented in the correspondence are Ivan Allen, Jr., Henry L. Bowden, Helen Bullard, Lester Maddox, Everett Millican, Ralph McGill, Lawrence "Chip" Robert, Richard Russell, David O. Selznick, Herman Talmadge, and Robert W. Woodruff.


  • circa 1860s-1983

Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Restrictions on Access

Researchers must contact the Rose Library in advance to access audiovisual materials in this collection.

Collection stored off-site. Researchers must contact the Rose Library in advance to access this collection.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

All requests subject to limitations noted in departmental policies on reproduction.

Biographical Note

William Berry Hartsfield (March 1, 1890-February 22, 1971), attorney, politician, and mayor of Atlanta was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of Charles Green Hartsfield, a tinsmith, and Victoria Dagnall Hartsfield. He married Pearl Williams on August 2, 1913 and they had two children, William Berry Hartsfield, Jr. and Mildred Hartsfield Cheshire. They divorced after forty-eight years of marriage and Hartsfield married Tollie Tolan on July 11, 1962. He later adopted her son, Carl.

Hartsfield attended Boys High School in Atlanta and found employment as a clerk for the General Fire Extinguisher Company. In 1916, while working as a clerk for the legal firm of Rosser, Slaton, Phillips, and Hopkins, he began reading law. His formal education was completed in 1937, when the Atlanta Law School awarded him a Bachelor of Law degree. Hartsfield was admitted to the Georgia Bar in 1917 and established a practice in Atlanta. His first entrance into the political arena came in 1923, with his election to the City Council of Atlanta. He remained a council member until 1928. During this time, he served on the municipal airport committee and helped arrange the purchase of Candler Field as the site for the city's first municipal airport. The Hartsfield International Airport is named in his honor.

From 1933 to 1937, Hartsfield served as a Fulton County Representative to the Georgia Legislature. In 1936, he defeated incumbent Mayor James L. Key in the first of the seven mayoral elections he entered. With the exception of an eighteen-month period in 1941-1942, Hartsfield served as the city's chief administrator continuously from 1937 to 1962. As mayor, Hartsfield saw the city more than triple in land area, grow to have over a million inhabitants, and survive the Depression and World War II fiscally sound and ready to undertake such civic improvements as building expressways and city parks. An early racial moderate, he guided the city through the 1950s and the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement. Hartsfield also served as an officer in two mining companies, the Southern Talc Company of Atlanta and Chatsworth, Georgia (1933-1942) and the Georgia Lightweight Aggregate Company (1951-1954). Throughout most of his life, he maintained an interest in Georgia's mineral development.

Following Hartsfield's retirement from city government in 1962, he was named Mayor Emeritus and became a consultant to the Ford Foundation's Committee of Review and Evaluation, Urban Program; to the Rockefeller Foundation's Performing Arts Panel; and to the Coca Cola Company. He was also named president of the Southeastern Fair Association. A life-long member of the First Baptist Church of Atlanta, Hartsfield was also a Democrat, a Mason, and a Shriner. Among the many honors he received were honorary Doctorate of Law degrees from Oglethorpe University and Atlanta University, both in 1961.


38 linear feet (78 boxes); 4 oversized papers boxes and 2 oversized papers folder (OP); 1 extra oversized papers folder (XOP); 12 bound volumes (BV); 2 oversized bound volumes (OBV); AV Masters: 1.25 linear feet (2 boxes)


Papers of Atlanta mayor William Berry Hartsfield including personal papers, correspondence, subject files, writings, printed material, photographs, memorabilia, and audiovisual material.

Arrangement Note

Organized into eleven series: (1) Personal papers, (2) Correspondence, (3) Elections, (4) Subject files (5) Writings, (6) Personal business records, (7) Printed materials, (8) Photographs, (9) Memorabilia, (10) Moses Cox files, and (11) Audiovisual materials.

Finding Aid Note

An index to selected correspondence in this collection is available.


Gift, with subsequent additions.

Appraisal Note

In 2019, some medals in this collection were reappraised and deaccessioned. Appraisal decisions were made by Interim Head of Manuscript Processing Sarah Quigley.


Control level 3


File name: hartsfield588.doc


Processed by Elizabeth Russey Roke, May 2010

Control level 3

File name: hartsfield588.doc

This finding aid may include language that is offensive or harmful. Please refer to the Rose Library's harmful language statement for more information about why such language may appear and ongoing efforts to remediate racist, ableist, sexist, homophobic, euphemistic and other oppressive language. If you are concerned about language used in this finding aid, please contact us at

Index of Selected Correspondents

Correspondence with prominent local citizens, local, state and national politicians, Atlanta business leaders, and other well-known personalities is indexed here. Correspondence from Series 1: Personal Papers, Series 2:Correspondence, Series 3: Election files, Series 4: Subject Files, and Series 6: Personal Business files have been indexed. Index is to series or subseries number, folder title (if needed), and date. Please refer to the complete finding aid for box and folder number.
This is not an index to all correspondents represented in this collection. Indexed items include correspondence from particular individuals. Other materials (newspaper clippings, photographs) relating to the same individual have not been included.
Abram, Morris B.
Acheson, Dean
Agnew, Spiro T.
Allen, Ivan Ernest
Allen, Ivan Ernest, Jr.
Arnall, Ellis Gibbs
Atwood, Sanford Soverhill
Bowden, Henry L.
Brown, Charlie
Buckley, William F.
Bullard, Helen
Callaway, Cason Jewell
Camp, Sidney L.
Candler, Charles Howard
Carmichael, James Vinson
Corman, James C.
Cox, Edward Eugene
Davis, James Curran
DeHavilland, Olivia
Dies, Martin
Dobbs, John Wesley
Eisenhower, Dwight David
Friendly, Fred
Gambrell, David H., 1929
George, Walter Franklin
Green, Cooper
Griffin, Marvin
Hassett, William D.
Hixon, Curtis
Hodges, Luther Hartwell
Hooper, Frank A. Jr.
Hoover, John Edgar
Humphrey, Hubert Horatio
Jackson, Maynard Holbrook, 1938
Jenkins, Herbert T.
Johnson, Lyndon Baines
Jones, H.O.
Kefauver, Estes
Kennedy, John Fitzgerald
Kennedy, Robert F.
Keyes, Evelyn
King, Martin Luther, Jr.
Kurtz, Wilbur George
Kyser, Kay
La Guardia, Fiorella Henry
Lance, Thomas Bertram
Landrum, Phillip Mitchell
Leigh, Vivien
Levitas, Elliott H.
Locke, Edwin A., Jr.
Lombard, Carole [Gable]
Lyle, George B.
Mackay, James A.
Maddox, Lester
Maddox, Robert Foster
Mankin, Helen Douglas
Massell, Sam
Mays, Benjamin Elijah
McGill, Ralph Emerson
McKellar, Kenneth
Millican, Everett
Morrison, DeLesseps Story
Nixon, Richard Milhous
Olivier, Laurence
Owens, Frank C.
Ramspeck, Robert
Rayburn, Sam Taliaferro
Rich, Richard H.
Rickenbacker, Edward Vernon
Robinson, Francis
Robert, "Chip" Lawrence Wood
Rockefeller, John Davison III
Rockefeller, Laurance S.
Rockefeller, Nelson Aldrich
Rusk, Dean
Russell, Richard Brevard
Schiro, Victor Hugo
Selznick, David 0.
Slaton, John Marshall
Steelman, John Roy
Strickling, Howard
Talmadge, Herman Eugene
Thompson, Fletcher
Vinson, Carl
Walden, A. T.
Walker, Prentiss
Weltner, Charles Longstreet
Whitehead, Frank C.
Wood, John S.
Woodruff, Robert Winship
William Berry Hartsfield papers, circa 1860s-1983
Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University
May 7, 2010
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library Repository

540 Asbury Circle
Atlanta Georgia 30322 United States