Ivan Allen family shines on — now at chamber’s front door

By Maria Saporta

Two historic gas lights now bookend the entrance of the Metro Atlanta Chamber.

Both gas lights stand in honor of two Atlanta legends — Ivan Allen Sr. and Ivan Allen Jr.

They were just moved from the backside of the chamber’s headquarters to the much more prominent location along Andrew Young International Boulevard at Centennial Olympic Park.

Celebrating relocated gas lamps: (left to right) Hank Linginfelter, executive vice president, utility operations, AGL Resources Inman Allen, son and grandson of Ivan Allen Jr. and Ivan Allen Sr. Suzanne Sitherwood, president, Atlanta Gas Light Sam A. Williams, president, Metro Atlanta Chamber John W. Somerhalder II, chairman, president and CEO, AGL Resources, parent company of Atlanta Gas Light

Celebrating relocated gas lamps: (left to right) Hank Linginfelter, executive vice president, utility operations, AGL Resources Inman Allen, son and grandson of Ivan Allen Jr. and Ivan Allen Sr. Suzanne Sitherwood, president, Atlanta Gas Light Sam A. Williams, president, Metro Atlanta Chamber John W. Somerhalder II, chairman, president and CEO, AGL Resources, parent company of Atlanta Gas Light

Chamber officials on Monday celebrated the move along with members of the Allen family and executives of Atlanta Gas Light, and its parent company, AGL Resources.

The “Shining Light” awards are considered to be among the most prestigious honors given to Atlanta leaders. Ivan Allen Sr.’s Shining Light was awarded in 1969, and the late Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen Jr. received his Shining Light in 1995.

“When I came to the Chamber, I was amazed these beautiful gas lamps were in the back, in the parking lot,” said Sam Williams, who has been president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber since 1997.

The lamps had been placed there because of the location of the gas lines, and Williams said there were restrictions to put gas lines through Centennial Olympic Park. A solution was found to bore a gas line underneath.

Once there was gas serving the front of the building, the lamps were moved.

Inman Allen, son of the former mayor, said both AGL and the Allens have been in Atlanta for more than a century, and he thanked the gas company for doing what was necessary to get the lamps in a much more prominent location.

“We love gas lights for obvious reasons,” John Somerhalder, CEO of AGL Resources, said while looking at the relocated lamps. “We are extremely honored to be part of it and to be part of this city.”

In closing, Williams said the Allen family is the “DNA of our business community.” Earlier this month, the Metro Atlanta Chamber celebrated its 150th annual meeting, and Williams said the Allen family has been involved with the Chamber for most of that history.

In 1923, Ivan Allen Sr. began the “Forward Atlanta” campaign, an initiative aimed at marketing and improving the city. It’s an initiative that continues to this day.

In the 1960s, Mayor Ivan Allen Jr. was instrumental in leading the city and its business community through its struggles with integration.

Williams also said the late Ivan Allen III served on the Chamber board and worked on aviation and transportation issues. And now the next generation has gotten involved with the organization.

“We have so many ties with this family,” Williams said. “But for you, this city would not be what it is today.”

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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