On May 5, 1979, the Braves were staggered by the sudden death, at 43, of the club's general manager, Bill Lucas. The first African-American general manager in Major League Baseball, and the highest-ranking black executive in the game at the time of his death, he had been stricken at home May 2 with a massive cerebral hemorrhage, after watching a Braves' road-game victory on television.
Lucas had been the Braves' top baseball operations official since September 17, 1976, and on his watch the team introduced players who would be integral parts of its early 1980s contending teams—such as Hall of FamerDale Murphy, Bob Horner and Glenn Hubbard. During Lucas' term, the club had also hired Bobby Cox for his first term (1978–1981) as manager. Lucas had been a player and executive with the Braves since 1957; his sister, Barbara, also was the former wife of Hall of Famer and Braves' legend Henry Aaron.
Lucas was succeeded May 16 by John Mullen, 54, a vice president with the Houston Astros since 1967 but previously a longtime member of the Braves' management team in Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta. Mullen would serve as the Braves' general manager until his replacement, by Cox, in October 1985.