Bob Hope talks about former Braves GM Bill Lucas

Bill Shanks

The Braves had an important person in their front office 40 years ago. Bill Lucas was the first African-American GM in baseball history. He may not have held the official title, but that's exactly what he was.

Lucas first joined the Braves in 1957 out of Florida A&M University. He played in the Braves farm system for six years.

Then he joined the Braves front office in 1965. He worked in sales and promotions as the team relocated to Atlanta.

In 1967, Lucas moved to player development, and the team named him as the player development director in 1972.

Ted Turner made him the de facto GM on September 17, 1976. He oversaw the team as it transitioned from the Hank Aaron era to the Dale Murphy era.

Lucas worked with scouting director Paul Snyder, who drafted Murphy and then Bob Horner in 1978. With Bruce Benedict, Glenn Hubbard, Larry McWilliams and others, the Braves finally had a farm system truly developing talent.

Lucas died of a brain hemorrhage on May 5 at the young age of 43. Murphy and Turner spoke at his funeral, and the Braves team was heartbroken.

Many believe Bob Watson was the first black GM when he took over the Yankees in the mid-1990s. But even Watson said it was Lucas who paved the way. He was a beloved person in the Braves organization, and he will never be forgotten. 

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