By John Schaffner

Thousands of motorists pass by all three sides of Buckhead Triangle Park every day and have no clue that this small tract is the historic and geographic center of Buckhead — the place where the commerce and culture of Buckhead find their roots.

The park marks the point where Roswell Road splits from Peachtree Road.

On Nov. 17, the Atlanta City Council followed the wishes of civic and business groups and voted 12-0 to rename the park Charlie Loudermilk Park after the 81-year-old founder of Buckhead’s own Aaron Rents, founder and active member of the Buckhead Coalition, philanthropist, and major Buckhead landowner.

Loudermilk himself was long an opponent of roads or other public areas being named after living people. He told the Buckhead Reporter he guessed he violated his own rule when he bought a small plot downtown and had a statue of Andrew Young, the former Atlanta mayor and U.N. Ambassador, erected there a few years ago.

Loudermilk was a co-chairman of Young’s mayoral campaign in 1981 and 1985.

With that recent history, how could he object to a park being named in his honor?

Loudermilk has filled leadership roles in several prominent Buckhead-based businesses and business organizations, including the Buckhead Coalition, Buckhead Club and Buckhead Community Bank.

He also helped bring the Olympics to Atlanta in 1996 as a member of the Corporation of Olympic Development’s board. He also has been active with the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau, The Lovett School and the Piedmont Hospital Foundation board.

The renaming, which was spearheaded by the Buckhead Alliance — an organization run by Loudermilk’s son and now CEO of Aaron Rents, Robin Loudermilk — was kept a secret from Charlie Loudermilk until after the City Council announced its action.

The elder Loudermilk was overwhelmed. He said he heard of the park naming when a friend called him to say he read about the night of the council vote.

Buckhead Coalition President Sam Massell, who was hired for that position by Loudermilk after serving as Atlanta mayor in the 1970s, said, “I think it is very nice that he is being honored by having the park named in his honor.”

Massell also is a staunch believer that public facilities should not be named for living individuals. But he said Loudermilk deserves the honor.

“He owns property on both sides of the park, has had his business headquarters in Buckhead for decades, and has been a strong Buckhead leader and booster,” Massell said of Loudermilk.

Atlanta City Councilman Howard Shook, whose district includes the Buckhead park, said: “He has done a lot for the city and a lot for Buckhead, and I am sure a lot of people would have been comfortable making a larger gesture. But, as it is, this one seemed to be embraced by everybody. The community, plus several business organizations, and the Neighborhood Planning Unit all saw that as a no-brainer.”

He added: “Right or wrong, I always think of that little patch as being the geographic center of Buckhead. Every developer would like you to think their project is. But I still think of that undeveloped remnant of what is left as being the heart of Buckhead.”