God's Capitalist: Asa Candler of Coca-Cola

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Mercer University Press, 2002 - Biography & Autobiography - 312 pages
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Can a rich man enter heaven? Asa Candler, who was a very rich man, thought so. He accepted the principle of Christian stewardship, which holds that God gives wealth to individuals in order to promote His kingdom on earth. Candler thus felt obligated to protect and build the fortune that he held as a sacred trust, and to use it to carry out God's purposes in the world. God's Capitalist: Asa Candler of Coca-Cola is an examination of the life of an entrepreneur who saw his personal wealth as a divine trust to be used to the benefit of humanity.

Today, people remember Asa Candler for his part in founding the Coca-Cola company and beginning that product's phenomenal success, but he also was successful in real estate development and in banking. His interests made him one of the richest men in the early twentieth-century South.

His sense of duty led to his support of many undertakings of the Southern Methodist Church. Advised by his brother Warren, a bishop in that denomination, Asa wrote a million-dollar check to finance the establishment of Emory University in Atlanta, where young men would be prepared for the ministry. Throughout his life, Candler made gifts and loans to encourage the well-being of his denomination, his city, and his state. At the end of his life, he had given away his entire fortune.

Despite his wealth and reputation, he was opposed by those who did not share his point of view, which was primarily shaped by his religion and his social position among Atlanta's elite. The last decade of his life was filled with sadness and difficulties, as he mourned the loss of his beloved wife and fought numerous court battles. By following Asa Candler's life, readers have a uniqueopportunity to visit Atlanta during one of the most critical times in its development, and to see it through the eyes of one of Atlanta's "movers and shakers."


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One of the best books about Southern Methodists EVER written. Candler was the Coke guy - the man who was so angry about people saying that his tonic contained cocaine! Nope, sorry, just an urban legend. Quite apart from Methodism, the book outlines the investments and alliances of Candler. His is a classic story of the happy marriage of capitalism and politics in Georgia. Dr. Kemp's writing style is lively, and she demonstrates a dry wit in some of her descriptions of the Candler family.  


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Page 15 - I think there is more money to be made as a druggist than as a physician," he wrote in the fall of 1872, "and I know it can be done with a great deal less trouble of soul and body." At the age of twenty-one, Candler arrived in Atlanta with his trunk on January 7, 1873. In later years, he liked to tell the story of how he came to the big city looking for work, wearing homemade clothes and carrying only...
Page 12 - ... Candler soon organized other children to do the minktrapping for him, and he established a regular Atlanta trade. On the return wagon, he purchased straight pins for resale in Villa Rica and learned a lesson he would later apply to Coca-Cola: there was good money to be made from penny and nickel sales. "Seems you couldn't make anything off pins, doesn't it? But when I went away to school, I had more than $100 saved up through the sale of mink skins and speculation in pins.
Page 26 - bury the hatchet' and to be friendly in the future — if this should meet your approval you can let me know. " Eight days later, Lucy gave birth to Charles Howard Candler, who was always known by his middle name. Asa and Lucy Candler appear to have had a genuinely happy marriage, eventually producing four boys and one girl. Howard later wrote, however, that "my Mother's patience was tried by household responsibilities...
Page 18 - When I think of those golden days amid these parched years of care and distraction," he said, "I sometimes think that once I lived in Heaven and, wandering, lost my way." In 1921, Candler plaintively wrote to Howard that "I was once counted with Atlanta's builders, Georgia's active sons — your advisor — now I am companionless, not needed nor called to any service.
Page 28 - Asa remembered his mother in a letter of condolence to a friend whose own mother had recently died: "This is... your greatest loss in life. I cannot, however, think that the loss is entire. Her influence over you will remain. When you would go wrong, her face will deter you. I do not believe a good Mother can ever die. Mine has not, though absent from the flesh since...

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About the author (2002)

Kathryn W. Kemp is assistant professor of History at Clayton College & State University. She earned her Ph.D. at Georgia State University.

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