By John Schaffner
Every Thursday at the Buckhead Business Association breakfast, one spry, older member introduces himself as he has done since 1982: “Karl Bevins, a registered engineer.”
Bevins, who turns 94 on May 30, was the city’s first traffic engineer. He held the post under four mayors, serving as an appointed official longer than anyone else in Atlanta.
So he can call himself a registered engineer. He also can speak of excelling as a professional musician: Bevins was the original principal clarinet of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
Bevins became a member of the Buckhead Business Association (BBA) in 1982, when former Atlanta Mayor Sam Massell was president of the organization. Almost everyone considers him the longest-standing active BBA member. He was a board member and attends every Thursday morning meeting.
In honor of his service to the BBA, as well as his 94th birthday, the organization presented him May 28 with the first Karl A. Bevins Service Award, which will be presented annually to honor a BBA member’s service to the organization and the community.
A host of past BBA presidents joined President Elizabeth Gill in presenting the award to Bevins at the Buckhead City Club.
Gill said the board started out to plan a birthday party for Bevins, and that turned into a discussion of an award. Gill said Bevins provides a good role model.
After earning electrical engineering degrees from Georgia Tech and Yale, Bevins went to work in the late 1930s for Georgia Power, which operated the Atlanta Transit System. That primarily was a streetcar system, although it transitioned into a rubber-tired system in the early 1940s.
After World War II, Bevins spent much of his time with Georgia Power trying to coordinate buses, streetcars and automobiles on the city streets.
In 1949, Atlanta Mayor William Hartsfield realized the need for a full-time engineer to oversee street traffic operations. Bevins became the first city traffic engineer in the Southeast and was named one of Atlanta’s “100 Leaders of Tomorrow” by Time magazine.
Bevins served as city traffic engineer for 28 years, was an innovator in the areas of staggered work hours, reversible lanes and computerized signal systems, and retired in 1978.
He then devoted himself to music, as a performer and a respected private teacher.
Atlanta’s professional musicians elected Bevins president of the Atlanta Federation of Musicians — a position he held for 19 years.