Photo: Legacy.com
Photo: Legacy.com

Remembering John Clendenin, BellSouth CEO and Atlanta business titan

John Clendenin, who led BellSouth as president and CEO when Atlanta was home for some of the world’s most globally recognized corporations, died Feb. 25. 

Clendenin was 85. He died after a long, unspecified illness. 

Clendenin was named president and CEO of BellSouth in 1984, where he remained until 1996. During that time, CEOs of Atlanta-based corporations were often as high-profile as the brands they led. Clendenin joined the likes of Roberto Goizueta of The Coca-Cola Co., The Home Depot’s Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank, and A.W. “Bill” Dahlberg of The Southern Co. 

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Clendenin also took his place in a long line of Atlanta executives renowned for their civic and community involvement and leadership in other companies. He served on numerous corporate boards including Home Depot, Kroger, Coca-Cola Enterprises and Equifax, among others. 

He was also past chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Alliance of Business and was national chairman of Junior Achievement and president of the Atlanta Council of Boy Scouts. 

Clendenin was a member of American Red Cross’ board of governors and the United Way’s board of directors; served as chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Alliance of Business and the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.

Clendenin was born May 8, 1934, in EI Paso, Texas. He graduated high school in 1951 and attended Swarthmore College before transferring to Northwestern University, where he graduated with honors. It was during this time he married high school sweetheart Ann Matthews. 

Clendenin served as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force Strategic Air Command before working for Illinois Bell Telephone Company. He then moved to Pacific Northwest Bell Telephone Company in Seattle and to AT&T in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, before moving to Atlanta as president of Southern Bell Telephone Company.

The Ann and John Clendenin Computer Science and Mathematics Building at Kennesaw State University was named in the couple’s honor in 1999 after a $1 million gift.

»Sign John Clendenin’s guestbook.

Clendenin is survived by three children, 13 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. He was a member of First Presbyterian Church in Atlanta and was buried at Arlington Memorial Park in Sandy Springs, Georgia. 

» RELATED: From 1996,  Transition at BellSouth: John Clendenin retires as president, CEO

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