Biographer pays tribute to Sam Massell, “brilliant, funny and accomplished”

Author Charles McNair, top, interviewed former Atlanta Mayor Sam Massell, bottom, for 20 weeks to create the biography Play It Again, Sam: The Remarkable Life of Sam Massell published by Mercer University Press.

We asked award-winning writer and novelist Charles McNair to share his memories of working with Sam Massell on his biography, Play It Again, Sam: The Remarkable Life of Sam Massell – Atlanta’s First Minority Mayorpublished by Mercer University Press in 2017.

Massell, who served as Atlanta’s 53rd mayor and was a tireless champion for his beloved Buckhed community, died March 13 at the age of 94.

McNair – author of the epicureans, Pickett’s chargeand nominated for the Pulitzer Prize O’Goshen Land — spent two afternoons a week for 20 weeks interviewing Massell for the biography.

McNair sent us this keepsake from his home in Bogotá, Colombia, where he now lives and writes.

In 2015-2016, two afternoons a week for 20 weeks (not starting meticulously until after the Buckhead Coalition’s hours had ended), Sam and I spoke in his Buckhead Place office about his life and its time. Honestly, I wish we had talked for 20 more weeks, then 20 after that, and until the day he died, early Sunday morning, peacefully and at home.

Sam was bright, funny, and accomplished – he seemed to have met everyone at one time or another, and he had a story about everyone. Scrolls that may have been written by historians capturing his adventures as a real estate agent, politician, travel agent, and association manager would be prized Atlanta treasures. I did my best in Play it again, Samthe story we wrote, to preserve some of the important stories, but there were so many more to tell.

I’m not sure there was ever anyone who loved Atlanta, Georgia more than Sam. The experience of hearing that love expressed during those long, in-depth afternoon talks will be one of my most special memories as a writer.

About Cody E. Vaughn

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