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Richard H. Rich papers

Identifier: Manuscript Collection No. 575

Scope and Content Note

The Richard H. Rich papers contain general correspondence, subject files, materials created by and about Rich's, Inc., family financial and legal papers, writings and printed materials, photographs, scrapbooks, memorabilia, and miscellany. The oldest items date from the early 1900's and are primarily photographs. The bulk of the collection dates from the early 1940's, around the time Rich joined the U.S. Army Air Force, to the time of his death in 1975. The large majority of these papers were Rich's office files and were transferred from his office in Rich's department store.

These papers document Rich's business career, his service to the Army, his extensive participation in local civic and business organizations, and, to a lesser extent, his role as a family man. Generally, papers relating to his business life are filed in the Rich's, Inc. series with frequent references to his role at Rich's found in the subject files and general correspondence. Similarly, Rich's active participation in local civic groups and in national business associations is represented most prominently in the subject files series with related materials in the Rich's, Inc., general correspondence, and financial and legal papers series. Finally, occasional folders in the subject files, general correspondence, and scrapbooks provide insight into Rich's personal life, habits, and beliefs.

The collection also describes the growth of the downtown store and downtown business community, changes in business and social practices, and movement into suburban malls. Expansions of the store, development of expressways and rapid transit systems, and overall development and beautification of downtown figure prominently in the Rich's, Inc. series. Issues of Rich Bits, the employee magazine, cover a fifty-five year period and reflect changing societal attitudes about work, relationships with employers, and segregation; for example, the separate Christmas parties held each year for black and white employees were featured in winter issues until the early 1960's. The decision in the 1950's to enlarge their potential market by moving into Atlanta neighborhoods and other area cities is documented through feasibility studies, planning reports, printed materials, and correspondence. Similar records outline the establishment of the Richway convenience stores.

Other topics and types of papers found in the collection include extensive files on the Atlanta Arts Alliance in the 1960's. Rich served as the first chairman of the Alliance and played a central role in fundraising campaigns to build a memorial arts center. The movement toward desegregating store facilities and the sit-ins of the early 1960's protesting store policies are covered in the Rich's, Inc. series. Papers relating to Hosea Williams's 1973 lawsuit against Rich for slander during a strike of black employees are found in the subject files. Nine scrapbooks containing correspondence, photographs, articles, newsclippings, and miscellaneous printed material document Rich's life from 1939 to 1975.

There are some gaps in the Rich papers. The role the Rich family played in Atlanta's Jewish community from the 1860's when Morris Rich opened shop to modern times is hardly mentioned. Indeed, except for the financial and legal series and papers about Rich's children in the subject files and photographs, there is little family material. Rich's youth and his early years at Rich's constitute another area of limited coverage. Finally, Rich's role as chairman of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority from 1965 to 1969 and the resulting defeat of a bond referendum to finance a rapid rail system is not covered in detail in the collection.

Correspondents include local, state, and national business and political leaders and other prominent persons. Among the names represented are Ivan Allen, Jr., James V. Carmichael, Dwight D. Eisenhower, William B. Hartsfield, Jesse Hill, Jr., Sinclair Jacobs, Stanley Marcus, Ralph McGill, Margaret Mitchell, Eliza Paschall, Richard B. Russell, Carl Sanders, Alan B. Shepard, Jr., Herman Talmadge, Robert W. Woodruff, and Andrew Young.


  • 1902-1981

Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Restrictions on Access

Special restrictions apply: Series 4 is closed to researchers.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

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

Biographical Note

Richard H. Rich (December 24, 1901-May 1, 1975), merchant and business executive, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of Herman and Rosalind Rich Rosenheim. His father was a shoe manufacturer in Savannah, his mother the daughter of Morris Rich, founder of Rich's department stores in Atlanta. Richard Rich legally changed his name from Rosenheim to Rich in 1920 at the urging of his grandfather. On December 29, 1930, he married Virginia Lazarus of New Orleans, Louisiana. They had three children, Sally Rich Rose Adolph, Virginia Rich Barnett, and Michael Peter Rich. Mrs. Rich died in 1957.

Rich spent his youth in Savannah attending local schools. He graduated from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1923 with a Bachelor of Science degree in economics. His formal schooling ended with post-graduate studies at Harvard University in 1923-1924.

After spending a year at L. Bamberger and Company's store in Newark, New Jersey, Rich joined M. Rich and Bros. as a full-time employee in 1924. While a teenager, he had lived with his grandparents in summer months and worked as a bundle-wrapper and stock boy at Rich's. From 1924 to 1933, he worked in the business office and merchandising departments. In 1924, he was elected a member of the Board of Directors of M. Rich and Brothers' real estate holding company and, in 1929, the year the company changed its name from M. Rich and Bros. to Rich's, Inc., he became a Rich's director. From 1933 to 1936, Rich headed the store's buying operation in New York City, then returned to Atlanta to be General Sales Manager and Publicity Director. He continued his rise through management ranks, being elected company vice-president in 1937, treasurer in 1947, and president in 1949. Twelve years later, he became Chairman of the Board, a position he held until 1972 when he entered semi-retirement as Chairman of the Executive Committee. He held that office at the time of his death.

As a chief executive of Rich's, "Mr. Dick," as employees called him, oversaw the store's tremendous expansions of the mid-twentieth century. Having moved to enlarged quarters on Broad Street in 1924, Rich's continued to expand in the 1940's and 1950's to become the largest department store in size and volume of sales in the southeast. The 1950's also saw the opening of Rich's first branch stores in Knoxville (a merger with S. H. George's which was sold in 1958) and in Atlanta at Lenox Square Shopping Center (1959). The company opened eight other branches in Atlanta and Birmingham before Rich died in 1975. They also opened several budget convenience stores, Richways, in Georgia and neighboring states. The Rich family played central roles in ownership and management of the store throughout the first one hundred and nine years of its existence. Then, in 1976, a year after Rich died, the company was sold to Federated Department Stores.

Rich served Rich's continuously from 1924 to 1975 with the exception of three years during World War II when he joined the U.S. Army Air Forces. Throughout his life, Rich actively participated in civic and charitable organizations and business associations. Among his many offices were founding chairman of the Atlanta Arts Alliance and the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, and chairman of the Greater Atlanta Expressway Committee. He was president and life trustee of the Rich Foundation, a charitable non-profit corporation, and a member of The Temple (Jewish Reform religion), the Standard Town and Country Club, and the Atlanta City Club. Among his many awards were an Honorary Doctorate of Laws degree from Emory University in 1965, the National Retail Merchants' Association Gold Medal for outstanding retailer of the United States in 1963, the Tobe Award for distinguished service in retailing, the Atlanta Rotary Club's Armin Maier Cup for outstanding community service, and Georgia's Citizen of the Year, named by the Association of County Commissioners.


41 linear feet (82 boxes) (2 oversized papers boxes and 3 oversized papers folders (OP); AV Masters: .25 linear feet (CLP3))


Papers of Atlanta merchant and business executive Richard H. Rich including correspondence, subject files, materials created by and about Rich's, Inc., family financial and legal papers, writings and printed materials, photographs, scrapbooks, memorabilia, and miscellany

Arrangement Note

Organized into nine series: (1) General correspondence, (2) Subject files, (3) Rich’s Inc. records, (4) Financial and legal papers, (5) Writings and printed materials, (6) Photographs, (7) Scrapbooks, (8) Memorabilia, and (9) Miscellany.

Finding Aid Note

A personal name index to the General correspondence, Subject files, and Rich's, Inc. record series is available.


Gift, 1978.

Additional Physical Form

Selected items from this collection are available digitally to researchers in the Emory Digital Collections repository.


Control level 3


File name: rich575.doc


Control level 3

File name: rich575.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, Atlanta business leaders, and local, state and national politicians is indexed here. Indexed items include correspondence written to and from the individuals. Correspondence in Series 1, General Correspondence, Series 2, Subject Files, and Series 3, Rich's, Inc., has been indexed. Index is to series number, box number, folder number, and number of items. For example, notation "Series 2 - 6:3 (1)" refers to Series 2, box 6, folder 3, with one item. Letters from the same series continue on the same line, e.g. "Series 3 - 32:4 (3); 48:14 (1)" connotes correspondence found in Series 3.
This is an index to selected correspondents rather than to all correspondents represented in Series 1-3. Materials such as newsclippings and photographs which relate to the named individual have not been indexed.
Allen, Ivan Ernest, Jr., 1911
Arnall, Ellis Gibbs, 1907-
Atwood, Sanford Soverhill, 1912-
Biggers, George Clinton, 1893-1963
Brown, Charlie
Carmichael, James Vinson, 1910-1972
Clement, Rufus Early, 1900-1967
Cox, James Middleton, Jr., 1903
Davis, James Curran, 1895-1981
Dobbs, John Wesley, 1931-
Donnelly, Walter J., 1896-1970
Eisenhower, Dwight David, 1890-1969
Eisenhower, Mamie Doud, 1896-
Flynt, John James, 1914
Gambrell, David H., 1929
George, Walter Franklin, 1878-1957
Harris, Julian Hoke, 1906-
Hartsfield, William B., 1890-1971
Hill, Jesse, Jr.
Howell, Clark, 1894-1966
Jackson, Maynard, 1938-
Jacobs, Sinclair
Johnson, Claudia Alta Taylor (Lady Bird), 1912-
Jones Robert Tyre (Bobby), 1902-1971
King, Coretta Scott, 1927-
King, Lonnie C., Jr.
McGill, Ralph Emerson, 1898-1969
Maddox, Robert Foster, 1870-
Marcus, Stanley, 1905-
Martin, S. Walter, 1911-
Mays, Benjamin E., 1895-
Mitchell, Margaret, 1900-1949
Newton, Louie E., 1892-
Nixon, Richard Milhous, 1913-
Noble, Edward E.
O'Connor, Basil, 1892-1972
Palmer, Charles Forrest, 1892-1973
Parks, Bert, 1914
Paschal1, Eliza K.
Peale, Norman Vincent, 1898
Russell, Richard Brevard, 1897-1971
Sanders, Carl Edward, 1925-
Shaw, Robert, 1916-
Shepard, Alan B., Jr., 1923-
Sibley, John, 1888-
Smith, Rankin, 1925-
Spalding, Hughes, 1886-1969
Talmadge, Herman, 1913-
Thompson, R. A.
Turman, Pollard, 1911-
Vance, Cyrus, 1917-
Vandiver, Samuel Ernest, Jr., 1918-
Vigtel, Gudmund, 1925-
Weltner, Charles Longstreet, 1927-
Westmoreland, William Childs, 1914-
White, Goodrich Cook, 1889-1979
Wilkins, Josephine Mathewson, 1896-1977
Williams, Hosea, 1926-
Woodruff, Robert Winship, 1889-
Young, Andrew, 1932-
Richard H. Rich papers, 1902-1981
Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University
June 12, 2006
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • December 8, 2014: Restricted container lists in Series 4 redacted in finding aid.

Repository Details

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

540 Asbury Circle
Atlanta Georgia 30322 United States