Three decades ago, Gerry Chatham surveyed the explosive growth across metro Atlanta’s northern tier and saw more than a business opportunity.
Most new arrivals, he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution back then, considered themselves careerists making just a brief stop on a corporate ladder; they had no sense of history or place.
He made it a mission of the glossy suburban magazines he founded during the 1980s to help newcomers learn to appreciate the history, assets and community spirit of their surroundings.
In the winter of 1983 he founded Inside Cobb. Next came Inside Gwinnett in the spring of 1985, then Inside Northside (covering North Fulton and DeKalb) in the fall of 1986. In the fall of 1987 he crossed over the Perimeter to start Inside Buckhead.
“We put out four quarterly issues of each magazine, plus an annual ‘Best of …’ issue for each targeted location,” said Carolyn Chatham, his wife of 50 years and Insider Publications’ longtime advertising sales representative.
A typical issue might feature articles on Old South charm in Cobb or why several Atlanta Braves players chose to settle in Gwinnett.
Chatham told the AJC his magazines were “a reflection of my philosophy,” adding that a part of that was boosterism with no apologies.
“Gerry was like the ballast in the hold of a ship, the weight that provides stability even in the roughest weather. Helent firmness of character to both business and human relations,” said Lee Walburn of Armuchee, former editor of Atlanta magazine.
“Gerry charted a profitable venture in magazine publishing at a time when the industry was experiencing a decline. The Inside Cobb, Gwinnett, Northside and Buckhead magazines were a tribute to Gerry’s and Carolyn’s determination,” Walburn said.
Chatham discontinued all four magazines in 2000 and devoted himself to producing community-interest articles published at the front of BellSouth’s Yellow Pages directories.
Gerry Wayne Chatham, 74, died Wednesday at his east Cobb home of complications from leukemia. A memorial service will be at 1 p.m. Monday at Mount Vernon Baptist Church, where he served as an elder. H.M. Patterson & Son is in charge of arrangements.
As a principal in the public relations firm Fleishman, Chatham & DiRico during the 1970s, Chatham was most interested in the publishing side of PR, said his former partner, Ernie DiRico of Marietta.
“Gerry was a terrific wordsmith who knew how to get the nugget of our clients’ messages into the brochures we printed for them,” DiRico said. “That wasn’t blood flowing through his veins; it was printer’s ink.”
Chatham’s first job in publishing was with The Atlanta Journal. “Gerry was hired as a clerk, but we quickly determined he had talent and put him to work as a sportswriter,” said Jim Minter, former AJC editor. Chatham worked at the paper three years before entering the Navy, where he became a navigator flying on submarine patrols off the Newfoundland coast.
Chatham made lifelong friends during his brief stint at the Journal.
“Gerry was the cheerleader of the group known as the Bisher Boys,” Walburn said. “He organized the annual reunions of the sports staff that served under the late Journal sports editor Furman Bisher. Although Gerry would receive accolades for his business and church activities, I suspect that the designation of Bisher Boy ranked near the top for him.”
Surviving in addition his wife are two sons, Scott Chatham of Atlanta and Jeb Chatham of Ellijay; and four grandchildren.