Luck Flanders GAmbrell
2023 Inductee, Georgia Women of Achievement
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” ― Elanor Roosevelt
January 17, 1930
June 29, 2015
City, Town, Region
Luck Flanders Gambrell lived a long life of kindness, generosity, faith, and service and was beloved by her family, friends, and community. Her interesting life was often revealed in the many stories she enjoyed telling as her health and age kept her from continuing the myriad activities that filled her first 75 years.
Born on January 17, 1930 to Mattie Moring Mitchell Flanders and William Henry Flanders, Luck Flanders grew up in Swainsboro, Georgia and attended the public schools of Emanuel County. After losing her mother at the age of twelve, some of her happiest days were spent at Camp Chattooga in Rabun County, and later at St. Mary’s College and Duke University in Durham, N. C. where she graduated in 1950. Luck often reminisced about her additional training at the Universities of Tours (France) and Fribourg (Switzerland) where she became fluent in French.
In 1952, while studying for the foreign service examinations, she met David Gambrell, and the next year they married and settled in his hometown of Atlanta where she lived the rest of her life. She taught French at the Westminster Schools, and the Gambrells had four children, Luck, Jr., Henry, Alice, and Mary. Luck Gambrell served as an active volunteer with the Atlanta Legal Aid Society while she raised her children, a service indicative of her concern for justice. She was a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta where she was a deacon and then an elder, and where she trained as a lay minister in the Stephen Ministries program.
Luck Gambrell had a keen interest in government and politics and embraced the role of a U.S. “Senate wife” after Governor Jimmy Carter appointed her husband to serve out the unexpired term of Senator Richard B. Russell after his death in January 1971. She campaigned tirelessly for her husband in his bids for the U.S. Senate in 1972 and Governor in 1974 and also canvassed door to door in New Hampshire in 1976 in soon-to-be President Jimmy Carter’s “Peanut Brigade.” Later she was appointed by Governor George Busbee as the first woman on the Georgia Board of Public Safety (1981-1990), and in 1980 she was elected in the Fifth District as a Georgia delegate to the Democratic National Convention.
Luck Gambrell was privileged to spend three nights in the White House as Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter’s guest, and when President Carter established the Carter Center in Atlanta she became a life member of its Board of Councilors, a leadership advisory group that serves to advance understanding of and support for the Carter Center and its global peace and health programs.
Luck Gambrell was a strong advocate of higher education in the state, serving on the Emory University Board of Visitors and the Tift College Board of Trustees. She had a special interest in creating opportunities for young people, and she volunteered for decades to help identify and fund disadvantaged women who wished to attend college through the Student Aid Foundation. She has generously supported Spelman College, Agnes Scott College, and her alma mater, Duke University.
Luck Gambrell’s lifelong dedication to improving her home community of Swainsboro was recognized only three months ago. On March 28, 2015 she was awarded the University System of Georgia’s Distinguished Alumni/Friend Excellence Award because of her extraordinary contributions to the founding and continued growth and success of East Georgia State College in Swainsboro. In 1971 she donated the land for the college that is now a thriving hub of education and opportunity in southeast Georgia.
For forty-five years her advocacy supported the development of programs and facilities at EGSC. Her most recent contribution was establishing Need-based Scholarships at EGSC in 2013. Luck was a great fundraiser and supporter for The Sunshine House Regional Children’s Advocacy Center which assists abused and neglected children in Eastern Georgia.