Manuel Maloof was born in Atlanta, the second of seven children of Gibran "Brownie" Maloof and Lillian Shikany Maloof. His father had emigrated from Lebanon in 1907; his mother was born in Savannah to Lebanese parents. After graduating from Tech High School he served in World War II as an Army Air Forces mechanic and mess sergeant. While stationed in England he met his wife, Dolly Green.
In 1956 Maloof purchased Harry's Delicatessen on Highland Avenue, just outside DeKalb County, later transforming it to Manuel's Tavern.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution describes Maloof's colorful tenure as owner of Manuel's Tavern:
In 1968-69, Paul Hemphill, a popular columnist for The Atlanta Journal, drank at Manuel's Tavern and wrote columns that made the proprietor into a local folk hero. Mr. Maloof was portrayed as a bartender-philosopher and a talented organizer of political protests. In December 1965, Mr. Maloof had organized 16 other tavern operators to successfully protest a move by the Atlanta Board of Aldermen to raise the Atlanta beer license fee from $144 to $750.
In the 1980s, the sideroom of the tavern served as the home for the theatre company of the Shakespeare Tavern before they moved to their own building in 1990.
Maloof first won a seat on the DeKalb County Commission as a Democrat in 1974 after losing a previous attempt in 1972. He served on the commission until 1978. He then defeated incumbent commission chairman Walt Russell in 1980. During his first term as chairman, the county changed its form of government to one headed by a chief executive officer.
In 1984 Maloof defeated Liane Levetan in the first DeKalb election for CEO. He was re-elected in 1988.
In May 1989, DeKalb County named its six-storey county administration building and its annex the Manuel J. Maloof Center for DeKalb County Governmental Administration. Maloof served as CEO until December 1992.
Among other achievements, he is credited with pushing through the construction of the interstate cloverleaf known as Spaghetti Junction at I-85 and I-285 and for expanding the number of minorities and women in top government positions. He is equally remembered for his colorful and often caustic observations and actions.
Maloof, a Melkite Catholic, died in 2004.