7 Stages remembers Holly MullBy Terry Sagedy

Holly Mull was destined for and dedicated to a life of service to others. Being the daughter of the then Mayor of Kalamazoo, the Honorable Glenn Allen, Jr. and his wife Virginia, Holly spent many of her earliest years observing and participating in city government’s traditions and happenings and benefited from a thorough understanding of protocol. This early exposure would be good training for one that would eventually become a champion of the new Atlanta, a pioneer in the restoration of Inman Park, and a believer in inclusion for all who held an earnest, selfless dedication to helping achieve the goals of the groups with which she was associated.

Holly and her former husband, Gale, moved to Inman Park in 1970 and became pioneers in the movement to bring the neighborhood back to its former glory through the organization then known as Inman Park Restoration (now Inman Park Neighborhood Association).  Their home on Elizabeth Street would become both a gathering spot for social activities and a command center for many of IPR’s active causes.

“It wasn’t long before we realized this is a woman who can get stuff done,” said neighborhood pioneer and former City Councilman John Sweet. “She defined the word contribution. Inman Park developed an attitude that we could get it done – if we worked hard enough and worked together, we could get it done.”

“We tried to get author Newman P. Barkley to buy a house in the neighborhood, and he told us that in order to restore Inman Park we would have to ‘reverse the history of the American city,’ ” Sweet continued. “Holly let us know it was possible – that the possibility spawned the doing. She provided an infrastructure of hope. She was the yeast that allowed many things in this neighborhood and city to rise and succeed.”

Holly worked under five Atlanta mayors including Ivan Allen, Sam Massell, Andrew Young, Maynard Jackson and Bill Campbell as the Special Events Director for the city. Here she would play host to world leaders, impress dignitaries, and walk with presidents ever mindful of the importance of the city’s external image.

Maynard Jackson said about his dear friend, “While at City Hall, Holly’s strength was her ability to produce first-class, large-scale public and community based events the city took pride in and the guests always left with a smile. Her passion for our city and commitment to her profession are a winning combination in my book.”

Holly brought joy to the lives of millions of people through her work by producing some of the city’s most memorable occasions including the1990 Olympic Announcement Ceremony, the Olympic Torch Relay Arrival, Falcons and Braves victory parades, the Shining Light Award, Christmas parades, and the Little 5 Points Halloween Festival and Parade…and of course, concepting and lovingly spearheading the Inman Park Festival Parade from the festival’s inception 40 years ago.

“She drew people to the neighborhood to celebrate,” Cathy Bradshaw remembered. “Holly helped put together the first festival and parade to help draw attention to the neighborhood.  She had a natural talent for organizing a group of people and finding quirky people to be in the parade.  Only 300 people were expected about to show up on that first beautiful festival day in 1971, but over 3,000 people showed up, enjoyed the festivities and the parade. I can still remember Holly there with her clipboard telling everyone where they should be.”

While Holly will always be remembered for the parade, perhaps her greatest contribution to the neighborhood was her diligent effort to have the neighborhood rezoned residential. It had been completely rezoned and up zoned to industrial, every last parcel. For a year and a half John Sweet, Holly and Gale sought residents’ signatures requesting that it Inman Park be down zoned.

“Holly was relentless in the effort,” Sweet added. “I was involved but she did 90 percent of the work knocking on doors every evening and explaining the situation to reluctant and skeptical neighbors.”

It was tedious work but necessary because City Councilman Rev. Charley Helms said he couldn’t get an ordinance passed unless he had a petition with half of the residents agreeing to it. Her winning ways convinced everyone to come together to support the rezoning effort which ultimately resulted in one of the most important moments in Inman Park history – the passing of a city ordinance rezoning the neighborhood to residential.

Through this experience, the neighborhood created both an approval process that was credible to city hall and a unified front. These were important milestones for the neighborhood that would later help when Inman Park applied for historic designation with the National Trust for Historic Places, as part of the effort to kill the Presidential Parkway.

“Holly (and Gale) also worked diligently to ensure that Inman Park was a neighborhood that would welcome all kinds of people – gay, straight, right wing left wing, etc.,” Sweet also said. “She firmly believed that we could build acceptance and tolerance and a neighborhood that valued a cornucopia of differences. She was loving and inclusive toward everyone and reached across well-established dividing lines to attempt to bring the city’s various factions closer together.”

She earned a bachelor’s degree in political science at Michigan State University and a master’s degree in urban planning at Georgia State University. After 30 years with the City of Atlanta she became Vice President of Sponsorship and Special Events at Ivory Communications. Holly started her own special events firm, Holly Mull & Associates in 2001.

Her mother, Virginia Verdier Mull and her father, Glenn Allen preceded her in death. She is survived by her son, Carter Mull, an artist who lives in Los Angeles, CA; her sister Susan Allen and her family.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.