By John Schaffner
“Mr. Buckhead” was honored by the city of Atlanta and some 200 friends May 21 with the official renaming of Triangle Park in Buckhead as Charles Loudermilk Park, while his son discussed a vision of rebuilding the park as a place where the public can experience the history and the heart of the Buckhead community.
“What we want to do is have a walk through Buckhead history,” said Robin Loudermilk, the founder of the Buckhead Alliance and CEO of Buckhead-based Aaron Rents. “People can walk to different areas of the park and hear about various aspects of Buckhead history.”
Like his father, who is refurbishing the Roxy Theater across from the park, Robin Loudermilk would like to create a wall in the park that looks like part of one of the old stores that once stood there and hang the famed bronze buck’s head from which the community got its name.
He wants to make it a place “where people would come and have their picture taken. Maybe inscribe the wall with the names of the Buckhead Boys, Buckhead Coalition, the founders and the people who have been involved in making the community.”
He said the plan is not about his dad. “It is about Buckhead. This is the center of Buckhead,” Robin Loudermilk said about the small park that forms the triangle where Roswell Road splits off Peachtree Road.
But the May 21 morning celebration was every bit about Charlie Loudermilk and what the Atlanta native son has given and done to help build Buckhead and Atlanta. His contributions and accomplishments were touted by two former Atlanta mayors, Sam Massell and Andrew Young, both close friends of his.
“Charlie really is Mr. Buckhead,” said Massell, who is referred to as the unofficial mayor of Buckhead and is president of the Buckhead Coalition. “He spent most of his life here, graduating from North Fulton High School (now Atlanta International School). He formed the Buckhead Club here 22 years ago and the Buckhead Coalition 20 years ago. He has his headquarters here, Aaron’s Inc., which brings us a lot of national prominence.”
Massell noted Loudermilk has been a major investor in Buckhead real estate. “You are going to see a lot of changes, most notably to the Roxy Theater right behind us here, where he is spending a lot of money to remodel it to provide a venue for cultural events.”
Turning to history, Massell recounted that Robert Woodruff gave him $3 million when he was mayor to buy the park property, tear down the buildings “and build our park for Buckhead.”
Around 1990, the Buckhead Coalition spent about $250,000 providing a sculpture of a buck sitting on a stump and telling the history of Buckhead to little animals.
“Fortunately, now we have Mr. Buckhead, Charlie Loudermilk, who I am going to invite to put more money into this park,” Massell said.
Young, an ordained minister in addition to being a former mayor, congressman and ambassador to the United Nations, started with a prayer, in which he said Loudermilk “set the mark” through his family and business so that the whole world might learn about “what we have called the Atlanta way.”
Referring to Loudermilk’s impact in building Buckhead, Young said: “What has made this community great is people who grew up here, who are products of our schools, of our churches and also of our democracy. We have been able to produce an entrepreneurial island that I think works better than any other on the face of the earth.”
Young concluded his praise by saying: “We have people who are dedicated, people who are loyal, people who are visionary and people who don’t mind sacrificing for the things they believe in.
“Charlie, thanks for being the best that you can be and making us the best that we can be. God has blessed us through you.”
Expressing thanks for the honor of having the park named for him, Loudermilk said: “I think it is the largest honor that I have ever had. I appreciate all the nice things these people have said about me. You know they normally only get that opportunity at your funeral.”
Loudermilk introduced his wife, Courtney; his daughter, Lisa, and her husband, Michael DeGolian; his son’s wife, Francis, and their daughter, Chappell; and renowned architect John Portman, a friend for 40 years who Loudermilk credited with changing the face of downtown Atlanta.
“I am looking forward to the plans to rebuild the park,” Loudermilk said. The Buckhead Alliance is selling commemorative bricks for the park at $100 each.