Ed Noble, an Atlanta visionary and developer of Lenox Square, one of the nation’s first shopping centers, died on December 4, 2016 at age 88. Mr. Noble was a member of the founding board of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation. We appreciate his support and offer our condolences to his friends, family and colleagues. Below is the obituary for Mr. Noble that was published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Lenox Square visionary changed Atlanta retail
Noble developed one of nation’s 1st shopping centers
By Elissa McCrary
For the AJC
Edward Noble had a vision that changed retailing forever. He was just 28 when he moved to Atlanta in the 1950s with a plan to develop Lenox Square Shopping Center in Buckhead, one of the nation’s first and largest shopping centers and the largest in the South.
“It used to be that no matter where you lived, you shopped downtown for every thing because that’s where all the stores were located,” such as big department stores like Rich’s and Davison’s, said former Atlanta Mayor Sam Massell, president of the Buckhead Coalition. “Ed’s vision and the development of Lenox changed all of that forever.”
Lenox Square Shopping Center opened on Aug. 3, 1959, as an open-air center with 60 stores and the slogan “Everything’s there at Lenox Square.” Today it has more than 1.5 million square feet and 250 stores on four levels.
“Ed was a man of vision and courage,” Massell added. “He saw the change on the horizon in comfort levels of neighborhood convenience. As a result, he took bold steps in retail development, changing shopping patterns in Atlanta, resulting in Buckhead becoming the retail mecca of the Southeast. He was a gentleman in his real estate dealings, and we were proud to have him as a director of the Buckhead Coalition.”
Edward Everett Noble, 88, died at his home in Atlanta on Dec. 4 after a long illness. A longtime resident of Atlanta, Noble was a well-known entrepreneur, business developer and philanthropist. He was born in 1928 in Ardmore, Okla., to Lloyd and Vivian Noble. He learned the value of work early from his father, a famed Oklahoma oilman and philanthropist. He worked jobs as a youth from mowing lawns and sacking groceries to working on a ranch and eventually in the oil fields of Samedan Oil Corporation to learn the family business.
In the mid-1940s, Noble attended St. John’s Military Academy in Delafield, Wis. After earning a bachelor’s degree in geology from the University of Oklahoma, Noble worked in Samedan’s West Texas division in Midland. He moved to Atlanta in 1956 and began working on the Lenox project at Peachtree and Lenox roads.
His plan “was a bold and risky one for several reasons,” Massell said. “First, he gambled his own money on it being successful. And he was an unknown in Atlanta with no contacts here. He was one of the first outsiders to develop real estate in the Atlanta area. He had to deal with city and state agencies that oversaw roads and all kinds of things. And he managed to make all of that work.” Massell added that Noble also had to convince the chief executive officer of Rich’s that establishing a store at Lenox was a good business decision. When Lenox opened, it was anchored by Rich’s and Davison’s.
There were other obstacles. Noble’s daughter Vivian Noble DuBose, a member of the Buckhead Coalition and president and chief executive officer of Noble Properties Inc., said area residents packed city council meetings to express concerns about the feared impact on their neighborhoods. She said the plan also led to a two-year battle over zoning that ended up before the Georgia Supreme Court.
“Building a shopping center in the suburbs was just such a different concept at the time, and not everyone thought it was a good thing,” she said. “No one really knew what to think about it and my father, this new kid who came to Atlanta with the big idea. But he believed in his vision and that it would be a positive factor for Atlanta, got a great team together behind it, and Lenox became a reality.”
Noble later built an award-winning small, independent chain of motels and hotels, Noble Inns Corporation, which included the Terrace Garden Inn on Lenox Road.
In the early 1980s, President Reagan appointed him to lead the transition team for the U.S. Synthetic Fuels Corporation, a government-funded corporation for developing commercial synthetic fuel manufacturing plants. Under Noble’s leadership, the Fuels Corporation only spent $1.7 billion of its designated $88 billion in taxpayer funds. He returned to business and development, helping to lead development of the land west of I-35 in Norman, Okla., during the late 1980s. He founded and served as president and CEO of Noble Properties Inc. until his retirement.
He was a member of Church of the Apostles in Atlanta and served on numerous boards, including the Foundation of the Holy Apostles, Pace Academy, Oglethorpe University, and Piedmont Hospital Foundation and the Hoover Institute. He was one of the founders of the Heritage Foundation in Washington.
Noble received numerous civic honors, and during the 1995-1996 legislative session, the Georgia House of Representatives passed a resolution commending Noble for his contributions to the state.
“My dad loved Atlanta, and he wanted to give back with public service for good organizations and causes,” Vivian DuBose said. “He started community events at Lenox, like art shows in the earlier days to showcase Atlanta artists and the first public fireworks held in the Atlanta area on July 4. He wanted Lenox to always be a vital part of the community.”
In addition to Vivian DuBose, survivors include his wife, Maria, of Atlanta; sister Ann Brown of Oklahoma City; granddaughter Ginger Heckman of Atlanta; and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews. Noble was preceded in death by his brothers, Sam Noble and Richard Noble.
A private family burial was held in Ardmore, Okla., on Dec. 9. A memorial service was scheduled for Dec. 17 at the Church of the Apostles in Atlanta. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made in Noble’s memory to Leading The Way in Atlanta, Church of the Apostles, Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., or a charity of choice.