William Hagood Bellinger rose through the ranks of BellSouth in Atlanta and ended up managing 15,000 employees. He helped co-found Georgia Tech’s graduate Management of Technology program and was a visiting professor and executive-in-residence at Tech. He also provided leadership to Atlanta service organizations.

Hagood Bellinger, 77: Business leader, admired mentor loved Tech, golf

Hagood Bellinger took on life’s challenges with a can-do spirit.

When his family couldn’t afford to send him to college, Bellinger worked his way through Georgia Tech.

He’d alternate working one quarter of the school year at utility giant Southern Bell with classes at Tech the next quarter under the school’s Bachelor of Electrical Engineering Co-Operative Plan.

“Our Dad was extremely determined,” daughter Bonnie Bellinger said. “He set goals for himself and always stuck to them.”

William Hagood Bellinger, a former BellSouth vice president, mentor, avid golfer and lifelong champion of Georgia Tech, died July 1. He was 77.

A Celebration of Life will be Saturday at 11 a.m. at Morrow First United Methodist Church. Visitation will be at 10 a.m.

A native of Florence, S.C., Bellinger parlayed a sharp mind and his engineering degree from Tech into a 32-year career in telecommunications, in which he ultimately became a company vice president and oversaw 15,000 BellSouth employees.

Bellinger attended Tech in the 1960s, but his devotion to the university lasted another 50 years.

He regularly attended Tech’s football and basketball games, rooting on his beloved Yellow Jackets even in the last year of his life.

Bellinger made some significant contributions to Tech as well, helping to establish its graduate Management of Technology program and creating an engineering scholarship fund. He also was a visiting professor and executive-in-residence at Tech.

Bellinger was active in the nonprofit SCORE Atlanta, which helps to mentor small-business people in the area.

Mentoring had been something Bellinger was committed to in his career, said Jim Satterfield, a longtime friend and former colleague.

“He was a mentor to a bunch of us,” Satterfield said. “He felt like it was his role to prepare you for making more contributions to the company, and he developed you as a person and a manager.”

Bellinger also had a reputation for giving female employees equal opportunities, daughter Laura said.

“Given that my father’s work with the phone company was from 1963 to 1995, I thought this was impressive,” she said.

George Hawley, a friend for 55 years, describes Bellinger as “the most even-tempered” and “most easygoing guy you ever met.”

“You would never know he had hundreds of guys working for him,” Hawley said. “He was so down to earth.”

Bellinger and Hawley went through a master’s degree program in electrical engineering together early in their careers and just stayed close, he said.

Their wives both played classical piano, and Bellinger made it a mission to expose Hawley to Southern cooking, even teaching him how to eat and cook grits and okra.

The two would visit each other, and “every time (Bellinger) was up another level in the company,” Hawley said.

Bellinger moved to the region in 1987 and lived in Atlanta, Dunwoody and Stockbridge. He served on the board of Junior Achievement, was a Rotary Paul Harris Fellow and served as trustee of the Georgia Tech Alumni Association.

He had Parkinson’s disease for 17 years. But he never complained about it or let it interfere with golf and the other joys in his life, his daughters and friends said.

“He was always working on his game,” daughter Bonnie Bellinger said.

Bellinger played in the Pro-Am tournaments in the BellSouth Classic. One year he played with championship golfer Nick Price, who offered tips to players through the day.

Four years ago, Bellinger won the senior golf tournament at Lake Spivey, despite having Parkinson’s for more than a decade and falling on the course during the tournament, daughter Laura said.

Bellinger loved to travel and enjoyed getting to know people in other countries.

“He seemed to especially enjoy his time as a Sloan Fellow at MIT, which had participants from all over the world,” daughter Bonnie said. “All of the families would go on excursions together and learn about each other’s cultures. I think this was a highlight in his life.”

Bellinger is survived by second wife, Mary, his children Laura Bellinger and Bonnie Bellinger, his stepdaughters Susan Adams and Jennifer Germany, and grandchildren William Bellinger Neff, Adam Bellinger Neff, and Sara Adams.

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to a Georgia Tech engineering scholarship, or Morrow First United Methodist Church. Scholarship donations should be made payable to the Georgia Tech Foundation Inc., 760 Spring Street NW, Suite 400, Atlanta, GA 30308 or at http://development.gatech.edu.

Church donations should be made payable to Morrow First United Methodist Church, 5985 Jonesboro Road, Morrow, 30260.

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