Who is Robert Winship Woodruff?

Who is Robert Winship Woodruff?

The Atlanta University Center (AUC) Robert W. Woodruff Library is named in honor of the late Robert Winship Woodruff, former CEO of The Coca-Cola Company and noted philanthropist. His gift from his personal fortune helped establish the library, covering more than half of the building’s construction expenses.

Woodruff was born in Columbus, Georgia, in 1889 and soon moved to Atlanta, where his father Ernest became president of The Trust Company of Georgia. An indifferent student, young Robert wasted no time in making his mark in business. Beginning as a salesman for the White Motor Company in Cleveland, Ohio, Mr. Woodruff's compelling personality quickly made him the company's most successful salesman, and he was soon promoted to vice president and general sales manager.

Meanwhile, Woodruff had invested along with many other Atlantans in The Coca-Cola Company, which had been acquired and taken public by a syndicate led by The Trust Company of Georgia. After the acquisition, the company fell on lean times. Mr. Woodruff was persuaded to return to Atlanta and become its president.

During the next six decades, Woodruff established a remarkable record as a businessman and philanthropist. Woodruff gave anonymously to many institutions, a number of which owe their very existence to his generosity. Much of his philanthropy was directed through the Trebor Foundation, established in 1937 (renamed the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation following his death in March 1985). The Foundation received funds from the estate of Woodruff's wife, Nell Hodgson Woodruff, who died in 1968, and from Woodruff's estate. The Woodruffs had no children.

An ardent outdoorsman, Woodruff lived life to the fullest and was a loyal and generous friend to many. He was quick to give credit to others, while dismissing his own success. Prominent on his desk was his personal creed: “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.”

Biography generously provided by The Woodruff Foundation.