From the International Olympic Games to the Canning Olympics in the mountains of North Georgia might be a stretch for anyone but A.D. Frazier.
Yes, Billy Payne’s former right hand man at the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG) hosted his own games recently. The Canning Olympics was an idea Frazier had while moderating the daily call-in show, “Swap Shop.” But instead of athletes bringing their A-games, participants brought Ball jars of sauerkraut and green beans.
“It hit me one day to celebrate all these wonderful women who live their lives quietly, in service to their families and the Almighty, and all the things they do. Canning is a big deal,” Frazier says. “We were covered up with glass jars! You can call it quaint, intimate. The fashionable word would be retro but it never was retro up there, never out of fashion.”
How did Frazier, a blue-chip business leader, become the host of the Canning Olympics, singing the praises of mountain living? “Easy,” he says, “just get a one way ticket.”
Frazier’s one way ticket was stamped, “Do your own thing.” He and Clair, his wife and business partner, formed Wolf Creek Broadcasting and purchased three AM radio stations in North Georgia after retiring to Fannin County in 2004. “I wanted something to mess around with when I retired and I thought that would be kind of fun,” Frazier says. Without a touch of arrogance, he continues, “I don’t have anything to prove and it’s a great position to be in.”
It wasn’t always that way for Frazier, who arrived in Atlanta in 1969, working for C&S Bank. “Here I was, a freshly-minted lawyer, working at the bank repossessing cars!” he says. “They didn’t care if I was Phi Beta Kappa, it was time to earn your spurs, kiddo!”
And Frazier earned them, spurs, chaps, saddle and horse, while compiling an impressive resum?. He managed the 1977 inauguration of President Jimmy Carter and headed the team reorganizing the White House and Executive Office of the President, also under President Carter. He was the first chairman of Georgia Public Broadcasting after being asked by then-governor George Busbee to help merge two public television stations into one state agency.
Frazier was also chief operating officer for ACOG, Chairman and CEO of the Chicago Stock Exchange, Chairman of the Board at Gold Kist Inc., CEO of INVESCO and president and chief operating officer of Caremark Inc.
That Frazier has accomplished so much and still retains his forthright manner is testimony to his character. “I don’t beat around the bush,” he says. “I say what’s on my mind.”
That he does. In 2002 a group of civic and business leaders from Atlanta visited Frazier in Chicago while on a LINK trip sponsored by the Atlanta Regional Commission. Frazier’s blunt assessment of Atlanta’s failings stung many members of the group; others felt there was more truth to what he said than they were comfortable admitting.
Frazier stands by his comments but is happy to say that times have changed in Atlanta. “I am so thankful for Shirley Franklin,” he says. “I look at what she’s had the guts to do and I think there isn’t a man out there who could do it. She’s probably surprised a lot of people, but not me.”
He’s in the unique position to reflect on what the Olympics meant to Atlanta 10 years ago and what they mean today. “The Olympics weren’t the punctuation mark to Atlanta,” he says. “We were continuing the legacy of men like Ivan Allen, John Portman, Larry Gellerstedt, Sr., and many more. Others have come behind us and accelerated the pace. The Olympics were a little drop of ink in a pool of water, but they helped take the blinders off to what we could be.”
These days, Frazier spends half the week in Atlanta, mediating disputes at Balch & Bingham, a law firm in Buckhead. The rest of the week, he and Clair might hop on their Harley Davidson 2003 Centennial Edition Road King and ride the mountain roads listening to their radio stations. This spring semester, Frazier will again teach business at Young Harris College. He does play by play when his radio station, WYHC, broadcasts college baseball games. “It’s a Walter Mitty thing,” says Frazier, “every man’s dream.”
And on Friday mornings, from 10 a.m. to noon, a satisfied Frazier sits behind the microphone, moderating the Swap Shop. “We’ve sold everything from preserves to roosters to a flywheel for a ’56 Ford,” he says. “It’s some zany stuff.”