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William Bernstein Schwartz Jr.

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William Bernstein Schwartz Jr. Obituary

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SCHWARTZ, William, Jr. WILLIAM BERNSTEIN SCHWARTZ,JR. William Bernstein Schwartz, Jr., a lifelong resident of Atlanta, died peacefully on May 18, 2010, at Piedmont Hospital. He was 88 years old. Born November 14, 1921, Bill was the son of Ruth Kuhn Schwartz and William Bernstein Schwartz, graduated from Druid Hills High School at age 16 and entered the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from which he graduated in 1942. Immediately upon graduation, six months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he entered the United States Naval Reserve Officers Candidate School at Newport, Rhode Island and was commissioned an Ensign, thereby becoming a "Ninety Day Wonder," those men and women who completed this highly abbreviated program in three months. After serving as a line officer on destroyer escorts and participating in the invasion of North Africa, he completed his naval service as a lieutenant in 1945. At a dance in his early teens, he met Sonia Weinberg, a petite Buckhead girl. There was an immediate attraction and from then on they had eyes only for each other. They were married at The Hebrew Benevolent Congregation (The Temple) in December, 1942, when he was on leave from the Navy. Their storybook marriage was a family legend. Sonia still has her diary from age thirteen in which she wrote, "I am going to marry Billy Schwartz!" Bill was supportive of many local Democratic Party candidates, the most notable of which was the gubernatorial campaign of Jimmy Carter, a state senator from Plains, Georgia, whose progressive ideas and enthusiastic tenacity appealed to him. He was introduced to Carter by their mutual friend Jerry Rafshoon. As Carter's presidential bid was formed, Bill became, along with Atlantans Anne Cox Chambers, Andrew Young and Philip Alston, Co-Chairman of the Carter Finance Committee that raised contributions for his successful campaign. After Carter's election, these four civic leaders were each appointed to an Ambassadorship. Bill was appointed Ambassador to the Bahamas and served there from 1977 to January, 1981. One of the toughest issues he faced while serving there was negotiating with the Bahamian government to grant the Shah of Iran, who had been deposed, political asylum. This event, documented in historical accounts, occurred when Hamilton Jordan, The White House Chief of Staff, called him on behalf of President Carter. The Shah remained in Nassau for several months. Bill was very proud of the time he and Sonia spent there. They were hosts to a large group of friends, family and distinguished guests during their four years in Nassau and entertained regularly at the elegant embassy. Especially notable guests they enjoyed hosting were Ted Turner, after he won the Miami to Nassau sailboat race, actress Candace Bergen while on vacation there, and singer Perry Como. Ambassador Schwartz served as President of The Temple during the 1950's. During his term, on October 12, 1958, The Temple was bombed. This event caused the national spotlight to be put on Atlanta. When many churches, especially First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta and its leader, Reverend Harry Fifield, reached out to offer assistance and worship space, Bill established associations that have survived and developed over the years. When he was in the hospital years later, Rev. Fifield, in addition to The Temple Rabbis, visited. When Alfred Uhry's "Driving Miss Daisy" was filmed in Atlanta, Bill was an "extra," playing himself, The Temple's President. He liked to joke, "If you blink, you will miss my scene." Unfortunately, it was not a speaking role, as he was often recognized for (and proud of) his deep, resonant voice. For most of his business career he was associated with National Service Industries, Inc., where he was a board member as well as President of the Zep Manufacturing Company division. After retiring early due to health reasons in 1968, he became president of Weine Investment Corporation, a private family investment company. He was also a director of Artex International, Balcor Energy Company and Phenix Supply Company. When in the 1960's, the City of Atlanta voted to build a rapid transit system, he became MARTA's Vice Chairman. In addition to his active business life, he had a robust involvement in Atlanta civic organizations. He was chairman of the Board of Visitors of Emory University, President of the Kiwanis Club of Northside Atlanta, Chairman of the Florence Crittenden Home, and Chairman of the Atlanta Chapter of the American Red Cross. He was also Co-Chairman of The Chatham Valley Foundation, a family philanthropy. He was especially proud of his role over thirty years ago in helping Dorothy and Hamilton Jordan found Camp Sunshine, the organization that provides programs for children with cancer and their families. He was also a board member of the Atlanta Botanical Garden, Big Brothers of Atlanta, Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, and President of the Atlanta Chapter of the American Jewish Committee. During the turbulent 1960's, he was Vice Chairman of the National Community Relations Advisory Council in Washington. His philanthropy was widespread and silent. With his brother-in-law Elliott Goldstein, they founded the Weinberg Center for Holocaust Education, named after their parents-in-law, Lillian and A.J. Weinberg, which educates high school students on the dangers of prejudice and discrimination. Bill had many passions, golf being a leading one. He often played five days a week with friends in Atlanta and Sarasota, Florida where he and Sonia have had a home for forty years. But his greatest passion - obsession - was his family. His home was never empty of a son, daughter-in-law, or grandchild coming and going. He had an impeccable memory and always knew where each family member was, their cell phone numbers and especially their email addresses, as he was in daily contact with his six grandchildren. Visits from his six grandchildren caused great laughter and joy. He is survived by his wife of sixty-seven years, Sonia, and his three sons and their wives, all of Atlanta: William B. Schwartz III (Nina), a banker with Wilmington Trust, Arthur Jay Schwartz (Joyce) a lawyer with Smith, Gambrell & Russell, and Robert C. Schwartz (Terry), also a lawyer with Smith, Gambrell & Russell. His six grandchildren are Colby Schwartz (Caroline), Tracy Stillman (Enan), Allison Schwartz, Clay Ellish (Brad), Katie Schwartz, and William B. Schwartz IV. In addition, he is survived by three great- grandchildren, Max Ellish, and twins Alexandra Lillian and Jacob Stillman. Funeral services will be held at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 20, 2010, at The Temple, with Rabbis Peter Berg and Alvin Sugarman officiating. Contributions may be made to the Schwartz Anniversary Fund at The Temple.
Published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on May 19, 2010
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