2007 Hall of Fame
Edited By Jerry Grillo
The Georgia Trend Most Influential Georgians Hall of Fame is reserved for individuals whose achievements and contributions have earned an enduring distinction.
The 2007 inductees are retired Georgia-Pacific chairman and CEO Pete Correll, philanthropist and Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, and newspaper publisher Billy Morris – three men too busy to be concerned with personal glory when there was so much work to do. But all three share at least one quality befitting Hall of Fame status: farsightedness. As Marcus says, “The long term is what matters.”
A.D. “Pete” Correll
Georgia Pacific Corp.
Throughout his 13 years at the helm of Georgia-Pacific, Pete Correll displayed a superior work ethic, typically putting in six days and 70 hours a week.
That was just on the job. He also was the consummate corporate citizen, called upon by mayors, civic leaders or, in some cases, a voice on the radio to tackle tough assignments for the public good. And that, Correll says, is the best ingredient of influence.
“I was riding to work and heard a report on the radio that Ebenezer Baptist Church was shutting down its building program for lack of funds,” Correll says. “It felt really good to make a few phone calls and get the project rolling again.”
Ten companies anted up $100,000 each in one afternoon and the renovation got done.
Correll says he’s prouder still of helping Mayor Shirley Franklin through a racially tense conflict when he led the task force considering renaming Atlanta’s airport – now Hartsfield-Jackson. He also led the charge to change Georgia’s flag, was tapped by Franklin to lead the Atlanta Committee for Progress and at different times chaired both Central Atlanta Progress and the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.
On the job he transformed Georgia-Pacific from a publicly traded timber company into the world’s largest tissue maker, now owned by privately held Koch Industries, which purchased the company for $13.2 billion in November 2005.
But Correll insists the more significant transformation occurred at the human level, a change recognized with a Catalyst Award for providing opportunities for women and minorities.
“There’s a difference between power and influence,” Correll says. “True influence means you actually have the ability to help powerful professional and political leadership through tough decisions.” – Jerry Grillo
Bernie Marcus really doesn’t enjoy this, the attention, the accolades, because it’s so far off the point.
“I never meant to be an influence, I just wanted to get involved in things that are critically important,” says Marcus, who co-founded with his pal Arthur Blank a business empire called Home Depot, then retired and pushed his philanthropic endeavors into overdrive. “I’ve never fought a battle on anything where I didn’t come equipped with the personal belief that what I’m doing is important and necessary.”
He wanted to help children with developmental disabilities, so in 1990, Bernie and Billi Marcus launched The Marcus Developmental Resource Center, which has evolved into The Marcus Institute, a nationally recognized center of excellence that provides coordinated and comprehensive services for children and adolescents.
When Marcus set out to open the world’s finest aquarium, it was because he wanted to give Atlanta a destination to build around. “People come to Atlanta for specific reasons, for business, conventions or perhaps a World Series. They’ve never come here to tour.”
The Georgia Aquarium, a $250 million gift from Marcus and his wife Billi through the Marcus Foundation, opened in November 2005. In its first year it exceeded all early expectations, hosting almost 3.5 million visitors and 700 events.
“If success is measured in the short term, then it’s been successful,” Marcus says. “But the success of this place will be measured over the next five years, when the question of staying power is answered, when we find out if we’ve enticed other things to come to the city. Until then, the jury is out. The long term is what matters.” – Jerry Grillo
William S. (Billy) Morris III
Morris Communications Co.
Billy Morris is not the type to call himself a media mogul. But there is no doubt the gentlemanly Morris has built a highly successful media business that today reaches across the nation, has holdings in Europe and employs more than 6,000 people.
Morris, whose roots are still firmly based in his hometown of Augusta, is chairman and CEO of Morris Communications Co. and publisher of The Augusta Chronicle. He began his career in the newspaper business in 1956, a few days before his 22nd birthday, at The Augusta Chronicle and Augusta Herald, which were owned by his parents.
Under Morris’ leadership, the company has grown to include newspapers, radio stations, visitor publications, outdoor advertising, magazine and book publishing businesses and online services. It’s currently the 21st largest private company in Georgia.
Newspapers remain the core business of Morris Communications and today the firm publishes papers from Augusta to Alaska. In addition to Augusta, the company also publishes two other Georgia dailies, in Athens and Savannah, plus several weekly newspapers and magazines.
Morris has long been a major benefactor to his hometown and to his alma mater, the University of Georgia, where he received his degree in journalism. He is chairman of the board of Augusta’s Morris Museum of Art, which he established in memory of his parents. Also in honor of his parents, he has established chairs at Augusta State University and the University of Georgia and a scholarship at Columbia Theological Seminary. – Bobby Nesbitt