by Carlos Anchondo ’14
More than four decades have passed since Walter Huntley met Earl Lewis. It was a warm fall day, and Huntley had just left the Refectory en route to Upper Campus. As he climbed the steps of Cardiac Hill, he heard someone call out his name.
The voice belonged to none other than Lewis, director of the University’s urban studies program. Lewis began to introduce himself when Huntley stopped him.
“Dr. Lewis, you don’t have to do that,” said Huntley at the time. “I know who you are.”
Lewis, bespoke in a sport coat, tie, and trademark spectacles, asked Huntley if he had ever considered a career in urban studies. Huntley, a biology major on a pre-med track, weighed the question. He had recently spent the summer in Los Angeles, where he’d observed the devastation wrought by the Watts riots. It was a transformative experience.
Curious about the role of public health, urban policy, and cities, Huntley said yes. Lewis invited Huntley back to his office for a conversation that would “change his life.”
He was admitted to Trinity’s graduate urban studies program, even earning a fellowship. Yet, before he began the program’s internship portion, Huntley took a leave of absence to participate in the Pittsburgh Steelers’s rookie camp. A Trinity football standout—he was inducted into the Trinity Athletics Hall of Fame in 2005—Huntley was later cut, but always appreciated the willingness of Trinity faculty to let him pursue that dream. After a realistic look at injuries he had already suffered, Huntley decided to forgo a tryout with the Houston Oilers.
Under Lewis’ mentorship, Huntley flourished in the program. He chose Atlanta for his nine-month internship and joined a nonprofit called Research Atlanta to study issues in the city’s metro area. Fate dealt Huntley another fortuitous hand of cards when Maynard Jackson, then-vice mayor of Atlanta, called on Huntley to deliver a briefing on taxation and finance. A 20-minute session became an hour. Jackson was impressed.
Two weeks later, Huntley was offered and accepted a spot on Jackson’s 1973 mayoral campaign.
“Somebody called me and asked me to work on Jackson’s issues group,” Huntley says. “I said, ‘Well, how much does it pay?’ They laughed and said I had moxie.”
The position was on a strictly volunteer basis.
Jackson was elected and became the first African American mayor of Atlanta and of any major Southern city. At 25 years old, Huntley became a special assistant to the mayor. He would later rise up to serve as Jackson’s chief of staff. The role was a great responsibility, but Huntley felt prepared from his days at Trinity.
“The ability to perform was based on training I had received at Trinity,” Huntley says. “That is why I am so committed to supporting the University. I owe Trinity a tremendous debt because everyone always enabled my vision and imagination.”
Huntley later founded Huntley & Associates, a consulting firm that worked with mayors and cities across Georgia and the United States. As the firm grew, Huntley was appointed by former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young to serve as president of the Atlanta Economic Development Corporation (AEDC), today called Invest Atlanta. Young was AEDC board chairman. Huntley put his consulting practice on hold and served for 10 years as AEDC president.
Young wanted the Olympics to come to Atlanta, and Huntley helped make it happen. He was a member of the bid preparation committee and remembers being in Tokyo when the bid was secured. In the years leading up to the 1996 summer games, Huntley traveled to Brazil, Spain, China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Africa, and countless other places to promote Atlanta to global business leaders. It was an international experience that he “will always remember.”
In 1997, Huntley founded Huntley Partners, Inc., a development advisory firm that specialized in market analysis and implementation plans for public/private development projects. CHA Consulting, an engineering firm based in New York, acquired the firm in 2013. Huntley served as a vice president and shareholder with CHA before moving to a consultant capacity in 2015.
“These days I have consciously limited my consulting practice, which allows me to spend more time with my grandson, Justice, who is 1 year old and lives in Chicago” Huntley says.
Humble and jovial, Huntley is an accomplished man who is anchored in his family, the city of Atlanta, and the Trinity community. At the request of former president Ronald Calgaard, he joined Trinity’s Board of Trustees in 1997. Huntley is the first and only African American Trustee. Being a Trustee is an honor he says he never expected, but it’s a chance to repay a University that, he believes, has given him so much.
To this day, Huntley still wears the Trinity class ring given to him by his mother, Elnora, now 95, when he graduated. He began wearing it when he became a University Trustee.
“When people see that ring I tell them its story and about Trinity,” Huntley says. “I got a great education from Trinity and have met so many outstanding people that have affected my life in a positive way. I am honored to continue serving my alma mater, a place that literally changed my life.”