Arthur L. Montgomery, a former Coca-Cola executive and civic leader who bore much of the responsibility for bringing professional sports to Atlanta, passed away Sunday.
He was 89.
Montgomery, born in 1923 in Atlanta, was one of the original “Buckhead Boys,” a cozy group of Atlanta natives, of both high and low station, celebrated in the poem of the same name by James Dickey.
He was president of Atlanta Coca-Cola Bottling Co., a concern that sold for $60 million in the early 1980s.
As chairman of Atlanta-Fulton County Recreation Authority, he was determined to woo big time sports to Atlanta, and working through his many contacts, and with the help of other city leaders, negotiated with Delbert Coleman, part-owner of the Milwaukee Braves, to move them to Atlanta in 1965.
An injunction brought by Milwaukee delayed the Braves until the following year. In the meantime, the authority built Atlanta Fulton County Stadium in 51 weeks, on the promise that the team would arrive.
“A build-and-be-damned mayor, a hard-nosed banker and a do-it-now businessman - three men - carried the hod for a stadium built on handshakes,” wrote then-editor of the Atlanta Constitution Eugene Patterson. “For the good of a city they gambled their names.” That mayor was Ivan Allen Jr. and the banker was Mills B. Lane, Jr. president of Citizens & Southern National bank.
The Atlanta Crackers played at the stadium while the city worked out its legal problems, and other entertainments filled in the gaps, including the Beatles, who performed at the stadium in 1965. Montgomery also had a hand in bringing an NFL franchise to the city, and helped talk Rankin Smith into buying the team, after demurring at an offer to own the team himself.
Jesse Outlar, former sports writer for the Atlanta Constitution, told writer Gene Asher, “Arthur never got the credit he deserved [for bringing pro sports to Atlanta], and he never really cared.”
Montgomery was also executive vice president of Atlanta Landmarks, which saved the Fox Theatre and had it designated a national historic landmark.
He developed a fondness for auto-racing, and in 1970 founded Road Atlanta in Braselton. He owned 17 Ferraris, at various times, and was known to take one for a spin to the drugstore to buy a candy bar, according to his daughter, Jeannette Montgomery Barron.
Barron and her brother Arthur “Monty” Montgomery were at their father’s side at his Brookhaven home when he passed away, she said.