Frank Neely

Frank Neely in 1884 was born in Augusta and grew up in Floyd County in the Northwest part of Georgia. Born the youngest of nine children, the son of a father that ran away to sea at a young age and came home mastering 5 different languages. Frank's father served in the Intelligence Service during the War between the States for the Confederate Army and after the war helped to establish schools in Richmond and Floyd Counties. 

Frank Neely attended Georgia Tech, spurred by his interest in farming equipment and graduated from GT in 1904. He was a benefactor and Alumni of that institution throughout his life. He went to work after his graduation in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania at Westinghouse, but returned in 1914 to Atlanta to work in his father-in-law's candy and cracker factory. He rebuilt the Schlesinger's factory and applied his engineering and management skills learned at Westinghouse to favorable help the factory. 

He became an Executive Ofcr. of Fulton Bag and Cotton Mills in 1915 which made tarps, tents and sacks, and gypsies were often the ones that bought the fanciest of the tents. As time advanced towards WWI the company began producing ammo and sulfide bags for gun powder. They expanded to 7 plants throughout the SE and Frank managed all 7 of them. 

Frank further advanced himself when in 1924 Walter Rich (of Rich's) hired him as General Manager. The new store had just been built on the corner of Broad and Alabama Streets in a repressed part of downtown and the store was on the brink of disaster. Mr. Rich had been so impressed with Frank Neely's management style and turning around the candy factory and bag business, he hoped Frank could save his family business. We have Mr. Neely to thank for converting Rich's from a hometown country store' to a department store that could compete with Davison's (which later we all knew as Macy's). Davison's was building a new store on Peachtree Street. 

Frank hired New York designers and light experts to redesign their showcases and to literally infuse the store with light. One unique element instituted was a stock control process that eliminated overstocking unpopular sizes and colors (a revolutionary breakthrough of inventory and stock processes at that time). 

Neely was also responsible for the Rich's trademark 'The Customer is Always Right' motto. He became Chairman of the Board in 1949 and managed the day to day operations until 1961 when he retired. 

Other achievements:

16 years - Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta 

1954 - Served on President Herbert Hoover's commission for modernization of Business Mgt. practices.

WWII - Southern Regional Director of the War Production Board 

1948 - First Chairman of the Board of the GA State Dept. of Commerce

First and only chairman of Georgia's Nuclear Advisory Commission set up by then Governor Marvin Griffin. The GT Nuclear Research Center bears Neely's name. 

Appointed at age 76 by President John F. Kennedy to a 23-man White House Commission on Youth Employment. 

In addition to many awards by the Atlanta Community several recall his work on the design of I-285, his engineering work on the viaducts over the railroad tracks for the city, and his leadership in building the new city hall. 

One of the first people to crossbreed Guernsey's and Holsteins. 

The Neely house is still intact in Gwinnett County, and serves as a clubhouse for Neely Farms Subdivision. The house was built on the Gwinnett property (purchased 100 acres at $25/acre). At its loftiest the farm contained 410 acres. The house was designed by the well renowned Architect Henry J. Toombs, best known for his design of 'The Little White House at Warms Springs, GA which he designed for his age long friend, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the Rich's store with the bridge. 

The family story is that the bricks for the house came from the original Fulton County Courthouse and that they were stored in Oakland Cemetery during the time of the demolition (around 1884) to the time Neely's house was constructed 1930's. The bricks were shipped by rail to Norcross and hauled by wagon 7 miles to the estate. The house was completed in 1937. 

Frank H. Neely was buried in Westview Cemetery in Atlanta after his death in May 1979. Frank was 95 years old. 

Articles about Mr. Neely can be found in the AJC - 
October 31, 1958, September 29, 1958, January 6, 1963, May 25, 1979. 
There are also numerous listings in the Atlanta papers for Mrs. Neely and her various outings and committees. 

The above courtesy of the staff. 



The following are provided as courtesy links to existing information on the internet regarding Mr. Neely. 

The below can be found at:

Inventory of the Frank H. Neely Papers, 1937-1969 [bulk 1964-1969] 

MS #088

Descriptive Summary 

Creator: Neely, Frank H. 

Title: Frank H. Neely Papers 

Dates: 1937-1969 [bulk 1964-1969] 

Abstract: Frank H. Neely, business and civic leader in Atlanta, graduated from Georgia Tech in 1904. His ties to Tech remained strong throughout his life, and his philanthropy is visible throughout campus. These papers include scrapbooks, correspondence, and printed materials primarily documenting his receipt of the Gantt Medal (1952) and Taylor Key (1958), and the Neely medal collection which was housed in the Rae and Frank Neely Room in the Library and Information Center. 

Size: 2.0 linear feet (one document case) 

Identification: MS #088 


Biography/Administrative History of Frank H. Neely Papers 

Frank Henry Neely, longtime employee of Rich's and a prominent civic leader in Atlanta in the mid-twentieth century, was born in Augusta, Georgia on January 19, 1884, the son of Benjamin and Henrietta Eve Carmichael Neely. Neely graduated from Georgia Tech in 1904 with a B. S. in mechanical engineering and accepted a position with Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company in Pittsburgh. 

In 1908, he returned to Atlanta, where he established a consulting firm. That same year, on February 4, he married Rae Schlesinger. Among his clients was the candy factory owned by his father-in-law, Harry Schlesinger. In 1915, he accepted a position with Fulton Bag and Cotton Mill, where he oversaw production in factories in Atlanta, Dallas, New Orleans, St. Louis, New York, and Minneapolis. 

His friend, Walter Rich, president of the family-owned Rich's Department Store in Atlanta, in 1924 offered Neely the position of general manager in recognition of Neely's excellent administrative abilities. In his years at Rich's, his positions included executive vice president and secretary, president, and finally, chairman of the board of trustees. He helped turn around the ailing department store. Most notable among his achievements was his dictum that the customer is always right, making the store famous for its liberal exchange policy. 

Despite his many accomplishments at Rich's, Neely is perhaps best known for his civic activities. the Atlanta Improvement Association; among the actions of this organization was the construction of viaducts in downtown Atlanta. That same year, he was named 'Citizen of Atlanta' by the now-defunct publication, The Atlanta Georgian. Neely organized the Special Relief Commission in 1931, served for three years as the president of the Community Chest, chair of the Fulton County Department of Public Welfare, and chair of Fulton County's Planning and Zoning Commission. In 1937, he became director and deputy chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta (Sixth District), serving as chair of the board for sixteen years beginning in 1938. 

During World War II, while acting as regional director of the War Production Board, Neely was instrumental in bringing Bell Aircraft Corporation (now Lockheed Martin) to Atlanta. He was named the first chair of the Georgia State Department of Commerce in 1948 and in 1952, became chair of the Georgia Better Roads Committee. In 1956, he helped organize the first Georgia Nuclear Advisory Commission, which was instrumental in bringing a nuclear reactor to Georgia Tech's campus. His ties to Georgia Tech remained strong throughout his life. At commencement exercises in 1941, distinguished Service Award and in 1944, was elected president of the Alumni Foundation. In 1967, he and his wife donated 58.55 acres of their 400-acre Neely Farm in Gwinnett County to Georgia Tech. The Rae and Frank Neely Room, located in the Price Gilbert Memorial Library, housed Neely's collection of medals and other artwork the couple donated to the institution. The Neelys established in 1960 what is now the Frank H. Neely Professorship in Nuclear Engineering and Health Physics. On January 11, 1963, Georgia Tech dedicated the Neely Nuclear Research Center. 

As president of the Rich Foundation, Neely oversaw grants to Emory University for the School of Business Administration and to Georgia Tech for Rich Laboratories of Industrial Engineering and Rich Electronic Computer Center. Neely also held federal appointments. In 1953, he became a member of the Committee on Business Organization of the Department of Defense and he later served as a member of Kennedy's White House Committee on Youth Employment. 

Rae and Frank Neely had one daughter, Rachel Neely Parker (d. March 17, 1988). Rae Neely, an Atlanta native, graduated from Girls High School, and went on to Smith College, from which she graduated in 1907. Founder of Child Service and Family Counseling Center, and the first person to serve as research director for the Georgia Department of Education, she was a poet, whose published works included Marguerite, the Sister and Wife of Kings, a one hundred page poem published by the University of Georgia Press in 1939. She also served as president of the Council for Jewish Women, and a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Piedmont Driving Club, Capital City Club, Standard Club, and the History Class of 1884. 

Frank Neely died on Friday, May 24, 1979 at age ninety-five, and Rae Neely died on Monday, January 14, 1980 at the age of ninety-six. 



The Frank Neely papers include scrapbooks, printed material, blueprints, and other items primarily documenting awards received by Neely and the Rae and Frank Neely Room at Georgia Tech. 

Considerable printed material concerning medals appears to have actually been collected by former Georgia Tech library director Dorothy M. Crosland and added to the collection. These include auction catalogs and promotional materials, as well as a small amount of correspondence. An inventory of the Neely Medal Collection and subjects these medals document is also included. Loose items intended for the scrapbooks are included as well. 

The two scrapbooks contain memorabilia for awards he was given. The first commemorates his receipt of the Henry Laurence Gantt Gold Medal in 1952. The Gantt Gold Medal, awarded by a board drawn from the American Management Association and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), is given for 'distinguished achievement in industrial management as a service to the community.' The memorabilia contained in this scrapbook includes the award itself, congratulatory letters and telegrams, programs, photographs, and newsclippings. Of particular note are a letter of regret from Herbert Hoover, who was invited to attend the ceremonies by ASME and telegrams from Ralph McGill and James Cox. 

Other items in the scrapbook pre- and post-date his receipt of the award and include a newsclipping from 1949, when Eleanor Roosevelt and her son Elliott visited Georgia, materials from the dedication of the Rich Electronic Computer Center at Georgia Tech on December 2, 1955, and a letter from Georgia Tech's Reactor Advisory Board thanking Neely for his help. The items in this scrapbook were glued down and are therefore discolored where the glue was applied. 

The second scrapbook was compiled to commemorate Neely's receipt in 1958 of the Frederick W. Taylor Key, awarded by the Society for Advancement of Management. Materials contained in this scrapbook include correspondence, newsclippings, telegrams, explanation of the award, and copies of Neely's remarks at the award dinner on October 30, 1958. Also included are materials for a reception given by the Georgia Chapter of SAM in honor of Neely on February 6, 1959, and clippings regarding the Nuclear Reactor at Georgia Tech. Materials in both these scrapbooks suggest that they were actually kept by Mrs. Neely. 

The oversized box includes an Award of Appreciation given to Neely by Georgia Tech on October 20, 1960 in recognition of his many contributions to the institution, an article on medallist Elizabeth Bradley Jones, appointment of Neely to Georgia Nuclear Advisory Commission on March 12, 1957 by Governor Marvin Griffin, and a reprint of 'The Store That Married a City' from a 1949 Saturday Evening Post. Most of the materials in this box, however, pertain to the decoration of the Rae and Frank Neely Room in the Price Gilbert Memorial Library; these include carpet and wallpaper samples, artist's renderings, and blueprints. 



Restrictions: Access


Restrictions: Use

Permission to publish materials from this collection must be obtained from the Head of Archives and Special Collections. 



Number 087 


Abbreviated Name NEELY RESEARCH 

Named for FRANK H. NEELY 

Address 900 ATLANTIC DR 



Construction Cost $3,754,000.00 

Construction Type STEEL OR CONCRETE 

Year Constructed 1963 

Year Occupied 1963 

Year Renovated 

Gross Square Feet 41,342 

Assignable Square Feet 24,275 


The Federal Reserve Bank & Frank Neely - Read the entire story @ link below.


Frank Neely takes charge

The forces of change crystallized in the Sixth District with the appointment of Frank H. Neely to a three-year term as a Class C director, starting January 1, 1937. Neely became chairman a year later and was very much the commander of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta until System policies forced him to retire at the end of 1953. Neely was a mechanical engineer from the Georgia School of Technology (now the Georgia Institute of Technology) who pursued enlightened management as something of an engineering problem to be solved with rational organization, operating efficiency, minimal waste, and no duplication of effort.

He was also a forceful and highly competent executive. Neely ran things. First he ran the Fulton Bag and Cotton Mills, an industrial challenge. Then he ran Rich's department stores, one of the city's largest retail operations. Even though Rich's was a family business and Neely was not family, he ran it, first in fact and then in name as well. He ran local government, civic, and charitable organizations too numerous to mention. And in his spare time he experimented with scientific agriculture on his Norcross farm and wrote books like The Manager, A Human Engineer.

And Neely ran the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta for 16 years. Four Bank presidents answered to him during his long tenure. The presidents were by law the chief executives of the Bank, and Neely happily let them manage the details of daily administration. But on broader policy questions they all answered to Neely, who made it clear that he expected the Bank to be efficient, progressive, and productive, and that no one would be asleep at the switch.

One officer who worked closely with Neely, Malcolm Bryan, later reminded him of the days in 1938 and 1939 when you were prowling the institution from cellar to garret and asking all of the pertinent questions that appealed to your orderly and experienced mind about the flow of work, the equipment, the layout of the shop and, in passing, making ungracious but pertinent fun of the broken-down adding machines, over-age typewriters, and bedraggled and inefficient equipment generally.

Neely spent considerable time in his chairman's office at the Bank, where he frequently held long and sometimes animated meetings with whomever was president. All the presidents became quite familiar with his prodding. Other staff members had little contact with him and regarded him as severe and a little frightening.

Actually, Neely knew very well what the 1935 act had done to his office and his Bank and what Eccles was tying to do with the System. Moreover, he generally supported these objectives. He would have been more impatient with the old decentralized System. It suited him to be a volunteer chairman instead of a professional staff member, and his own agenda for shaking up the Atlanta Fed dovetailed reasonably well with Eccles's agenda for the System.

The Bank's research department in the 1940s. 

The rise of research

At the top of Neely's agenda was attracting a top-notch economist to the Atlanta Bank and establishing a strong research department. That was where the future lay, he shrewdly concluded after he saw the ambitious plans in Washington for turning the System into a powerful agency for conducting monetary policy. The Board in Washington and the New York Bank already were starting to build research departments. Economists would be needed and heeded. Neely went right to work on the problem. In June 1937 he told the Atlanta board that they needed to hire a recognized economist. In July he told them that he had been to Washington to confer with E.A. Goldenweiser, the Board's chief economist, and that Malcolm Bryan was the man to hire. Bryan, born in Illinois and trained as a graduate student at the University of Chicago, had been professor of economics at the University of Georgia since 1925. He was a popular lecturer, an eloquent communicator, and a sophisticated and possibly brilliant economist. The Board of Governors already had “discovered” him and brought him to Washington to work on special projects, on a leave of absence from the university, when Neely learned about him.


In January 1938, just after he was named chairman of the Atlanta Bank, Neely wrote to the Board in Washington, proposing to start a research and statistics department in Atlanta and to hire Bryan to manage it. Eccles approved, and Bryan was hired as vice president at a salary of $7,500.

The Bank always had compiled certain statistics of commercial interest's commodity prices, department store sales, and so forth and published the data in printed monthly reports. Feeding such information to the Board staff in Washington was part of the Federal Reserve agent's job, but this work had never been considered a primary function of the Bank. In 1921, when Chairman McCord had proposed starting a Bank library, Governor Wellborn had stocked it with edifying fiction for the clerical staff. But 1938 was a different matter. Economic data and analysis were needed to support and direct the kind of economic management the Board was attempting. To meet the demand, Bryan organized a true research library and hired a librarian. In the Bank's Monthly Review, the old statistical compilations of routine commercial data were compressed to make room for more analytic, scholarly reports. By 1942 the research department had a staff of six.


Slow days in a stagnant economy

Even with ambitious intentions and supportive research, the Fed found the economy balky and difficult to manage through the 1930s. The modest recovery that began in 1933 continued until a recession in 1937 wrecked the fragile progress. The banking system, once the wave of bank closings and liquidations had passed, was a reservoir of largely unused capacity. Reserves rose to unprecedented levels, leaving banks ready to lend to borrowers who never showed up. It was not surprising, therefore, that member banks rarely asked the Fed for credit. Rediscounts, in Atlanta as elsewhere, were rare, even when the rediscount rate dropped to an all-time low of 1.5 percent in 1937, well below 1920's record high of 7 percent. The government securities on which the Bank largely depended for income now were held in a pooled account managed at the System level. Like their members, the Reserve Banks sat on a mountain of excess reserves. Excess reserves posed problems for the Washington architects of the new monetary policy because they insulated the banks from any actions the Fed could take. The Fed was figuratively in the driver's seat of a stalled car. It may have held the steering wheel, but unless the car would move it could not be directed.


Operations, in Atlanta and other District cities, were flat. There simply was little to do, and, with depressed earnings, the Bank tried to take in sail and operate as economically as possible. Employees who left often were not replaced. When home-office cashier M.W. Bell retired, President Newton told the board that a new cashier was unnecessary, that other officers could handle his duties. (By statute, the cashier was custodian of all monies, investments, and securities; in practice he was a general manager of asset and liability activities at the Bank.) Director J.A. McCray, chairman of the building committee since 1916, recommended disbanding that committee since it had no foreseeable work to do.


The changeover to a more centralized system left bruised feelings among many of the District Bank directors and officers, who did not like to see local authority reduced. Resentment surfaced at an April 1940 meeting of Reserve Bank chairmen at Sea Island, Georgia. The chairmen, Neely reported, said that they felt unimportant now that the Washington Board, rather than the local board, was making the policies and directing the operations of District Banks. The Washington staff was overbearing in issuing new rules and regulations, the Bank chairmen complained. Governor Ronald Ransom, a former Atlanta banker, conceded that Reserve Bank operations had become largely mechanical, but he urged the Banks to emphasize research and become important sources of business and economic information.


A succession of presidents

A series of uncontrollable circumstances forced management changes at the Atlanta Fed and prevented it from falling into step with the new orientation of the System as quickly as Neely probably would have liked. Bryan may have been Neely's farsighted idea of the new breed of Reserve Bank president, but Neely had to wait 13 years to bring his plan to fruition, as untimely deaths forced sudden management changes. Oscar Newton certainly was no new-breed central banker. Like McCord, Wellborn, Black, and Johns, his roots were in commercial banking, and he had been drafted into a Reserve Bank dominated by credit and operations concerns. The winds of change scarcely had begun to blow, however, when, on February 10, 1939, reportedly in the midst of a board meeting, Newton had a sudden heart attack and died three days later (having been stricken at his post of duty, as the board's eulogy put it).

Within a week, the new president was 55-year-old Robert S. Parker, a lawyer whose prestigious firm (which included a descendent of Thomas Jefferson and a relative of Woodrow Wilson) had represented the Bank since it opened.

Frank Neely and the Bell Bomber Plant