Jesse Hill Jr., 86, a civil rights leader and businessman who became the first black president of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, died Monday.

Mr. Hill had a close relationship with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and helped make sure his legacy would be remembered, according to Steve Klein, a spokesman for the King Center, where Mr. Hill served as chairman of the board of directors from 1979 to 1993.

Mr. Hill was born in St. Louis. He graduated from Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo., with a degree in mathematics and physics, and earned a master's in actuarial science from the University of Michigan. He joined Atlanta Life Insurance Co. in 1949 and eventually became the company's president and CEO. He retired in 1990.

Mr. Hill was named the head of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce - now called the Metro Atlanta Chamber, in 1978.

In 1960, Mr. Hill helped create the Atlanta Inquirer, the city's first newspaper for the African American community. He was publisher until 1985.

Mr. Hill was also a board member on the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. - AP