SIBLEY, JOHN A. (JOHN ADAMS), 1888-1986.
John A. Sibley papers, circa 1920-1989

Emory University

Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library

Atlanta, GA 30322

404-727-6887

rose.library@emory.edu

Permanent link: http://pid.emory.edu/ark:/25593/8zw4f

Collection Stored Off-Site

All or portions of this collection are housed off-site. Materials can still be requested but researchers should expect a delay of up to two business days for retrieval.


Descriptive Summary

Creator: Sibley, John A. (John Adams), 1888-1986.
Title: John A. Sibley papers, circa 1920-1989
Call Number:Manuscript Collection No. 437
Extent: 233 linear ft. (464 boxes), 3 bound volumes (BV), 3 oversized bound volumes (OBV), 25 oversized papers (OP), and AV Masters: 1 linear foot (1 box)
Abstract:Papers of Atlanta attorney and business leader John A. Sibley consisting of personal and business correspondence relating to his law practice, his employment at Coca-Cola Company and Trust Company of Georgia, and his association with various organizations.
Language:Materials entirely in English.

Administrative Information

Restrictions on Access

Series 5: Use copies have not been made for the audiovisual materials at this time. Researchers must contact the Rose Library in advance to access audiovisual material in this collection.

Collection stored off-site. Researchers must contact the Rose Library in advance to access this collection.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

All requests subject to limitations noted in departmental policies on reproduction.

Source

Gift, 1987, with subsequent additions.

Citation

[after identification of item(s)], John A. Sibley papers, Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University.

Processing Note

Last revision: February 2012


Collection Description

Biographical Note

John Adams Sibley (1888-1986), an Atlanta attorney, bank and civic leader, was born January 4, 1888 on a farm in Baldwin County near Milledgeville, Georgia. Sibley began his legal career in 1911 when he and his brother, Edwin, started the firm of Sibley and Sibley in Milledgeville after John graduated from the University of Georgia. Seven years later, Sibley moved to Atlanta to join one of the city's leading law firms, King and Spalding. In 1920 Sibley litigated one of his most famous cases, Coca-Cola Bottling Co. v. The Coca-Cola Company. The Coca-Cola Bottling Company chose King and Spalding and Sibley to represent them in a lawsuit against The Coca-Cola Company. The case centered on whether the contact made between the two companies in 1899 could be revoke by The Coca-Cola Company or if the contract was perpetual and permanent. Sibley won the suit. Recognizing Sibley's talent, Robert W. Woodruff later hired Sibley to be the Associate General Counsel of The Coca-Cola Company and, in 1935, Sibley rose to be General Counsel of The Coca-Cola Company. Sibley returned to private practice with King and Spalding in 1942. He resigned his position in 1946 to become the chairman of the board of trustees of a powerful Atlanta bank, Trust Company of Georgia. He guided the bank through its tremendous post-World War II growth. He retired from the board of trustees in 1959 but remained as chairman of the company's executive committee until 1962.

After his retirement from Trust Company of Georgia, Sibley agreed to serve as chairman of the (Georgia) General Assembly Committee on Schools. In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, the state legislature had passed a number of laws designed to circumvent the Supreme Court's ruling and keep the state's school segregated, including an amendment to the state's constitution that forced the state to end state funding for any school that desegregated. The legislation in effect forced the state to choose between complying with the federal courts or shutting down the state's public school system. The "Sibley commission," as the nineteen-member committee was known popularly, held ten town hall meetings across the state. At the meetings, Sibley reduced the emotionally charged issue of school desegregation to a single question: "Are you willing to have integration in public schools or are you willing to have integration and abolish public schools and support the schools by private means?" Although a majority of speakers at the hearings opposed integration, the committee recommended that the legislature adopt the "local option" plan where local school boards would decide whether to desegregate or not. The state legislature adopted the commission's recommendations in January 1961.

John A. Sibley married Nettie Whitaker Cone on November 25, 1914. They had four children: John Adams Sibley, Jr., James Malcolm Sibley, Jeanette Sibley (Yow), and Martha Erwin Sibley (George). Three years after Nettie's death in 1934, Sibley married Barbara Sanford Thayer. Their children were Barbara Thayer Sibley, Horace Holden Sibley, John Adams Sibley, III, and Stephen Thayer Sibley. John A. Sibley died on October 26, 1986 in Atlanta.

John Adams Sibley (1888-1986), an Atlanta attorney, bank and civic leader, was born January 4, 1888 on a farm in Baldwin County near Milledgeville, Georgia. Sibley began his legal career in 1911 when he and his brother, Edwin, started the firm of Sibley and Sibley in Milledgeville after John graduated from the University of Georgia. Seven years later, Sibley moved to Atlanta to join one of the city's leading law firms, King and Spalding. In 1920 Sibley litigated one of his most famous cases, Coca-Cola Bottling Co. v. The Coca-Cola Company. The Coca-Cola Bottling Company chose King and Spalding and Sibley to represent them in a lawsuit against The Coca-Cola Company. The case centered on whether the contact made between the two companies in 1899 could be revoke by The Coca-Cola Company or if the contract was perpetual and permanent. Sibley won the suit. Recognizing Sibley's talent, Robert W. Woodruff later hired Sibley to be the Associate General Counsel of The Coca-Cola Company and, in 1935, Sibley rose to be General Counsel of The Coca-Cola Company. Sibley returned to private practice with King and Spalding in 1942. He resigned his position in 1946 to become the chairman of the board of trustees of a powerful Atlanta bank, Trust Company of Georgia. He guided the bank through its tremendous post-World War II growth. He retired from the board of trustees in 1959 but remained as chairman of the company's executive committee until 1962.

After his retirement from Trust Company of Georgia, Sibley agreed to serve as chairman of the (Georgia) General Assembly Committee on Schools. In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, the state legislature had passed a number of laws designed to circumvent the Supreme Court's ruling and keep the state's school segregated, including an amendment to the state's constitution that forced the state to end state funding for any school that desegregated. The legislation in effect forced the state to choose between complying with the federal courts or shutting down the state's public school system. The "Sibley commission," as the nineteen-member committee was known popularly, held ten town hall meetings across the state. At the meetings, Sibley reduced the emotionally charged issue of school desegregation to a single question: "Are you willing to have integration in public schools or are you willing to have integration and abolish public schools and support the schools by private means?" Although a majority of speakers at the hearings opposed integration, the committee recommended that the legislature adopt the "local option" plan where local school boards would decide whether to desegregate or not. The state legislature adopted the commission's recommendations in January 1961.

John A. Sibley married Nettie Whitaker Cone on November 25, 1914. They had four children: John Adams Sibley, Jr., James Malcolm Sibley, Jeanette Sibley (Yow), and Martha Erwin Sibley (George). Three years after Nettie's death in 1934, Sibley married Barbara Sanford Thayer. Their children were Barbara Thayer Sibley, Horace Holden Sibley, John Adams Sibley, III, and Stephen Thayer Sibley. John A. Sibley died on October 26, 1986 in Atlanta.

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of the papers of John A. Sibley from 1910-1991. His papers include subject files, personal files, photographs, printed material, and audiovisual materials. The collection documents parts of Sibley's professional career, his personal life, and his involvement with civic and philanthropic organizations and educational institutions. The collection does not contain much material from his time at King and Spalding or his time as General Counsel of The Coca-Cola Company.

The subject files comprise the largest part of the collection. They contain correspondence, reports and unpublished documents about people, businesses, organizations, and subjects important to John A. Sibley, including files about Agnes Scott College, Berry Schools, The Coca-Cola Company, the Georgia General Assembly Commission on Schools, the Henrietta Egelston Hospital for Children, the Ida Cason Callaway Foundation, Trust Company of Georgia, and the West Point Manufacturing Company.

The personal files include Sibley's personal papers, his speech files, honors and awards he received, and extensive correspondence with family members. The photographs series consists of photographs from 1910-1985 and five disassembled photo albums. It includes photographs of John A. Sibley, Sibley with his friends and associates, and family members. The photographs range from professional portraits to candid shots. The printed material consists mostly of articles about John A. Sibley and the Georgia General Assembly Committee on Schools. The audiovisual materials consist of recordings by or about John A. Sibley, including a commencement address Sibley delivered at Emory as well as coverage of Sibley receiving the Shining Light Award.

Arrangement Note

Organized into seven series: (1) Subject files, (2) Personal papers, (3) Speech files, (4) Family papers, (5) Awards and honors, (6) Photographs, and (7) Audio-visual material.


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Description of Series

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