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This vintage photo of Sam Massell captures a pivotal moment in history

Buckhead Coalition President and former Atlanta Mayor Sam Massell will be honored, along with former Atlanta Mayor and UN Ambassador Andrew Young, at the 2018 Swan House Ball on April 21.

PAST: Surprise! At 89, Sam Massell is a newlywed 

Scouring the AJC archives for a vintage photograph befitting the occasion we came across a black and white frame shot in October 1970. It’s a pretty basic image of then Mayor Massell and his executive secretary, Norma Day, standing in the office.

Yet it documented a significant moment in Atlanta history: when female City Hall employees could start wearing pants to work.

“Mrs. Day, the mother of four children, says there are more important things in the world for women to consider than hemlines, like the war and people who are hungry,” the cutline read.

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In October 1970, Sam Massell made history, announcing women could wear pants to work. He's shown with Norma Day, his executive secretary at the time. AJC archive photo: Charles Pugh (Jennifer Brett/The Buzz)

Asked for his highest moments in office, Massell recalled other points of progress.

“My proudest moment as mayor was appointing Panke Bradley as a member of the City Council, then called the Board of Aldermen,” Massell said. The mayor at the time had the power to fill vacancies. When the first one arose, Massell told his staff to find qualified women for his consideration.

“Today that just sounds so trite. Back then, you can’t imagine what people were saying,” he recalled. “Where will she go to the bathroom? Sam, what are you thinking about, appointing a woman? There had not been a woman on the city council. Half the population was female and we weren’t getting that representation.”

Massell, the city’s first Jewish mayor, is proud of increasing diversity among elected officials over the years. He turns 91 in August but remains a tireless Buckhead booster, excited with each new development and opportunity.

Read more about the event, and Massell's thoughts on Atlanta's past, present and future, at myAJC.

About the Author

Jennifer Brett is a multiplatform journalist and digital coach. She writes The Buzz blog for

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