The 100 Most Influential Georgians [A-F]

F. Duane Ackerman


BellSouth Corporation


Age: 63

In a career spanning more than four decades in the telecommunications industry, Ackerman’s last eight years as BellSouth’s CEO may have been his most important ones. Steering the company during a time of intense change and competition, he has spearheaded BellSouth’s transition from a provider of voice telephone services to one that is among the nation’s leaders in broadband and wireless Internet services.


Michael Adams


University of Georgia


Age: 57

Building the University of Georgia into one of the nation’s premier public research universities has been Adams’ mission since he became its president nine years ago. Along the way, student quality has improved, research funding and private giving have increased, and Adams has emerged victorious from a well-publicized tiff with the UGA Foundation, whose relationship with the university as a fund raiser has been severed.


Daniel P. Amos


Aflac Incorporated


Age: 54

Amos introduced the famous Aflac duck in 2000. Since then, recognition and revenue have skyrocketed. Aflac, which gets 70 percent of its business from Japan, boasted revenue of $13.3 billion in 2004. Meanwhile, 100 percent of the income from toy ducks sold over the Internet goes directly to the Aflac Cancer Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.


Thurbert Baker

Attorney General

State of Georgia

Stone Mountain

Age: 53

Ever since he was appointed to the state’s top law enforcement post by then-Gov. Zell Miller in 1997, Baker’s efforts to toughen penalties against crime, corruption and consumer fraud have earned the confidence of voters, who have elected him twice since then to consecutive four-year terms. This year he will serve as president of the National Association of Attorneys General.


Charles Bannister


Gwinnett County

Board of Commissioners


Age: 66

Bannister, a former Lilburn city councilman and mayor who served 18 years in the General Assembly, capitalized on anti-growth sentiment to defeat longtime Gwinnett County Commission Chairman F. Wayne Hill in November 2004. Now Bannister, the highest-ranking politician in a county of 700,000, will be challenged to appease the anti-growth voter base.


Lonice Barrett

Director of Implementation

Commission for New Georgia


Age: 62

Barrett was hired to turn suggestions into substance. It’s all part of Gov. Perdue’s plan to make Georgia the nation’s best-managed state. Not an easy chore, even for a state government veteran like Barrett, longtime Department of Natural Resources chief, who must implement the recommendations from more than 200 business leaders on 18 different task forces.


Thomas D. Bell, Jr.


Cousins Properties Incorporated


Age: 55

Since ascending to the top post at Cousins Properties, Bell has continued to build on the company’s nearly 50-year history of landmark commercial and retail developments while serving as a civic leader as well. A passionate advocate for smart growth initiatives, he chairs the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and is on the board of Atlanta Streetcar, Inc.

Sally Bethea

Executive Director

Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper


Age: 54

Sally Bethea’s job would be easier if the Chattahoochee River was still on the endangered rivers list, because then some citizens would be shocked into doing their part to clean up the main water source for the Atlanta metropolitan area and begging to help Bethea.

But after 11 years of tireless work cleaning up the Chattahoochee, Bethea has helped lessen the doom along the 200-plus miles of river she watches closely, from its headwaters near Helen down to West Point Lake. The organization, which has a $1.2 million budget and a fulltime staff of eight, has rallied considerable support for the maintenance of the river, which provides water to 70 percent of the population of the metropolitan Atlanta area.

“I found my niche in the 1970s when I worked as a volunteer for the Sierra Club and found I liked working for the underdog, and the underdog in this case is the river, as well as the lakes and forests,” Bethea says. “It makes me angry when I see people that are doing things that damage the resources that are so valuable to our communities and they are doing it for one reason and that’s greed.”

Bethea grew up on a small, unnamed tributary of the Chattahoochee. Her foes frequently are disarmed because not only does she have the passion to protect the river, she has the technical expertise with an advanced degree from Georgia Tech in environmental planning. Bethea also is member-at-large of the Georgia Board of Natural Resources.



Sanford Bishop

U.S. Congressman


Age: 58

When he seeks his eighth term in office this fall, Bishop can point to a list of accomplishments. Instrumental in legislation protecting Georgia’s farmers and veterans programs, Bishop has also been a leader among the ‘Blue Dog’ Democrats, a group of fiscally moderate-to-conservative members of the party in Congress.


Arthur Blank


Atlanta Falcons and Georgia Force


Age: 63

Blank has donated more than $160 million to organizations around the country through the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation. Most notable for pro football fans, his dramatic turnaround of the once-moribund Falcons has sparked new levels of excitement, generating the franchise’s first-ever waiting list for season tickets last year.


Bill Bolling

Executive Director

Atlanta Community Food Bank


Age: 58

Bolling founded the food bank a quarter-century ago. Today the agency is the largest of its kind in the state, providing more than 14 million pounds of food to more than 750 local nonprofits in 38 north Georgia counties, while maintaining low administrative and overhead costs. Thanks to an $11.1 million capital campaign, the food bank last year moved into its new food warehouse and distribution facility.


Lisa Borders


AtlantaCity Council


Age: 47

Borders became the envy of every aspiring politician in 2004, winning in her first stab at elective office in a special election to fill the seat vacated by Cathy Woolard. She was returned to office in the regular election last fall. A senior VP with Cousins Properties, Borders has long been involved in community work focused on women’s and children’s issues, serving on the boards of organizations including Teach for America, Great Schools Atlanta and the Salvation Army.

Mike Bowers


Balch & Bingham, LLP


Age: 64

Even though the former Georgia Attorney General and one-time gubernatorial candidate vows, “I will never run or serve again,” Bowers still swings with plenty of statewide clout. And though he scoffs at the notion that his name carries much influence, it hasn’t stopped Bowers from putting himself on the A-list of supporters for two major statewide candidates, Fulton County Commission Chair Karen Handel (running for Secretary of State) and State Rep. Casey Cagle (running for lieutenant governor).

An attorney who concentrates on general civil litigation, when Bowers isn’t trying landmark cases over perceived government inequities, he is chairman of the Governor’s Judicial Nominating Commission, which makes nominations to fill vacancies in the Georgia Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Superior and State Courts.

Like Gov. Sonny Perdue, Bowers is a Democrat-turned Republican, and he has a few assertions about the historic shift to a GOP-controlled state legislature and executive branch. “I think the changes that occurred on the state level in 2002 will stick, and the reasons are largely demographic,” says Bowers, citing the influx of conservative voters to Georgia.

But Bowers doesn’t rubber stamp every move made by Republican legislators and offers a caution regarding some of the “closed government” bills put forth in the last session, such as HB 218, which would allow state industrial recruiters to hide negotiations until after a deal is signed. “Open government is the best government,” Bowers says. “When the law is transparent, people act differently.” – PR


Robert L. Brown


RL Brown & Associates, Inc.


Age: 53

Brown and his peers on the DeKalb-Fulton Hospital Authority are charged with finding a successor for departed Grady Hospital president and CEO Dr. Andrew Agwunobi. An award-winning architect, Brown also is one of the state’s most active leaders, serving on the boards of the Georgia Department of Transportation, Georgia Department of Corrections and Georgia Chamber of Commerce, to name a few.


Michael Cassidy


Georgia Research Alliance


Age: 52

The GRA has invested $400 million to recruit top researchers in advanced communications, computing and biosciences over the past 15 years. So far, 51 world class scientists have come to Georgia as GRA Eminent Scholars, bringing more than $2 billion in federal funds and investment capital, creating more than 4,000 jobs and 125 new companies.


Saxby Chambliss

U.S. Senator


Age: 62

Georgia’s senior senator has risen quickly through the ranks of Congressional GOP leadership since winning his first run for national office in 2002. A member of the Senate’s Armed Services, Rules and Select Intelligence committees, Chambliss also chairs the upper chamber’s agriculture committee, emerging as a leader on defense, intelligence and agriculture issues.


G. Wayne Clough


Georgia Institute of Technology


Age: 64

Ranked by U.S. News & World Report again this year as one of the nation’s top 10 public universities, Georgia Tech continues to prosper under Clough’s leadership. He was named last year to the National Science Board by President Bush, and recognized by the American Society of Civil Engineers for his lifetime contributions to education.


Cathy Cox

Georgia Secretary of State


Age: 47

Cathy Cox made a name for herself after the 2000 election fiasco in Florida when hanging chads on paper ballots hung up an entire nation waiting to hear the name of its new president.

Her clear, calm, slow Southern drawl on a Georgia Public Radio program firmly assured voters that such a drama would not be repeated here. She said she would have electronic voting machines in every Georgia county by the next election – and she did.

In contrast to Florida’s shame, Georgia’s first woman secretary of state will be remembered for making the state proud of its elections.

Since then, Cox has gone on to earn national recognition for the Secretary of State’s Web site. The Corporations Division has become a leader in government e-commerce, offering services through the Internet and e-mail. She also made campaign disclosures available online. She orchestrated the largest decentralization in state history, moving the largest operating division to Macon. She also opened a new State Archives facility in Clayton County.

“In my opinion, good leaders are those who think outside the box and come up with new ideas to better accomplish their goals. I am always looking for better ways to effectively and efficiently serve Georgians whether that means offering more of our services online or providing an office outside of Atlanta to make it easier for all residents of our state to do business with our agency,” says Cox, a Bainbridge native and former attorney, state legislator, newspaper reporter and volunteer firefighter. “My least favorite phrase is,

‘We’ve always done it this way.'”

If she succeeds in her bid for governor this year, she will become the first woman in that job as well. – KHT


J. Billy Croker


PolkCounty Board of Commissioners


Age: 70

Croker, who ran a hardware store for almost 50 years, has chaired the Polk County Board of Commissioners for the past nine. He is president of the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, chairs the North Georgia Council of Chief Elected Officials and serves on the Georgia Board of Community Affairs and the executive committee of the Coosa Valley Regional Development Center.


Benjamin DeCosta

Aviation General Manager



Age: 60

It’s been a rough year for Atlanta’s international claim to fame, the world’s busiest airport. In addition to the financial woes of its top tenant, Delta, the airport’s multibillion dollar expansion project has run into rough weather with a delay on the new international terminal. But there is good news: The fifth runway is on schedule.


Kit Dunlap

President and CEO

Greater HallCounty Chamber of Commerce


Age: 64

Selected by Gov. Perdue to chair the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District, Dunlap stays busy enough leading the chamber for one of the state’s fastest growing areas. In the two year span from July 2003 to June 2005, Gainesville-Hall County had more than $215 million in new investment from new and existing businesses.

Michael Eskew


United Parcel Service, Inc.


Age: 56

As head of Georgia’s second largest public company, Eskew wields a lot of business clout, but he also makes time to take on a variety of national and local nonprofit activities. Reflecting his company’s international interests, Eskew is a member of the President’s Export Council and is chairman of the U.S.-China Business Council.


Sadie Fields

Chairman, Christian Coalition of Georgia


Age: 61

Sadie Fields is a Christian soldier with a powerful modern-day weapon – a big database. As head of the Christian Coalition of Georgia, she can call on 65,000 supporters and a “pro-family database of 275,000” to help when she sets out to do battle in Georgia’s political arena.

Supporters – and detractors – say Fields is one of the most politically powerful women in Georgia, reflective of the power of the conservative Christian movement shown in elections and legislation throughout the country in recent years.

Fields started her own journey toward political activism after a “born again experience” in 1978. She began by reading Christian books and then, “caught up in the desire to be involved,” turned her attention to politics. She worked in campaigns for Georgia Republicans Paul Coverdell, John Knox and Guy Millner and was state director for Pat Buchanan’s presidential campaign.

In 1997, she was named chairman of the Georgia Christian Coalition to lead what she sees as the fight against a decline in the nation’s moral values. “I have a Biblical worldview,” she says. “I want to see righteousness restored ? the sanctity of marriage and life upheld.”

With a Republican governor and Republican majorities in both the Georgia House and Senate, Fields is seeing more success “now that we have a more friendly legislature than in the past.” A major victory was the passage of legislation in 2004 calling for an amendment banning gay marriage in Georgia, later approved by more than three-quarters of Georgia voters. – BN


Shirley Franklin



Age: 60

Franklin received a resounding seal of approval from voters who elected her to a second term. Topping her ‘to-do’ list are parks/greenspace, affordable housing, the Beltline, public education and, naturally, water and sewers. In 2005 she was named one of the ‘Five Best Big-City Mayors’ in America by Time magazine and won the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award.

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