Southern Bell

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Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Company
FateRenamed to BellSouth
SuccessorSBT&T Co.
HeadquartersAtlanta, Georgia, U.S.
ProductsLocal telephone service
ParentAmerican Bell (1879-1899)
AT&T (1899-1983)

Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Company was once the regional Bell Operating Company serving the states of Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, and South Carolina prior to the breakup of AT&T. It also covered the states of Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee until 1968 when those were split off to form South Central Bell.

The company was originally known as the Atlanta Telephonic Exchange, having been created to service citizens of Atlanta in 1879, before it was renamed in 1882.[1]

Southern Bell also operated in Charleston and other parts of West Virginia, from 1883 until 1917, when the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company of West Virginia took over operations there.[2]

Split into South Central Bell & Southern Bell[edit]

Southern Bell originally served nine Southern states. On December 20, 1967, the western portion of the Southern Bell territory (Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee) was split off as South Central Bell Telephone Company.

Landmark sex discrimination case[edit]

Weeks v. Southern Bell was an important sex discrimination case in which Lorena Weeks claimed that Southern Bell had violated her rights under the 1964 Civil Rights Act when they denied her application for promotion to a higher paying position because she was a woman. She was represented in the case by Sylvia Roberts, a National Organization for Women attorney. She lost the initial case but won in 1969 after several appeals. Weeks v. Southern Bell was an important case as it marked the first victory in which NOW used the Civil Rights Act to fight sex-based discrimination.[3]


Southern Bell, originally incorporated in New York, was reincorporated in Georgia in 1983 as SBT&T Co.[4] The original Southern Bell was then merged into SBT&T Co., at which point that company was renamed Southern Bell. Since BellSouth, the new owner of Southern Bell and South Central Bell upon the divestiture of AT&T, was based in Georgia, it was more practical to have Southern Bell incorporated in the same state. Southern Bell was renamed BellSouth Telecommunications until it was merged into AT&T in 2006.

Southern Bell was headquartered in (what is now) the AT&T Midtown Center building in Atlanta, Georgia. Most Atlanta operations have now been relocated to AT&T Headquarters in Dallas, Texas. Downtown Atlanta's telephone exchange is located in the Art Deco AT&T Communications Building.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Conor Lee (2014-02-21). "Southern Bell Telephone Company Building". Retrieved 2020-05-29.
  2. ^ "Verizon West Virginia: Company History". Verizon. 2009. Archived from the original on 2009-01-29. It begins operations on Jan. 1, 1917, assuming the West Virginia operations of the Central District and Printing Telegraph Co., The Chesapeake and Potomac of Maryland and Southern Bell.
  3. ^ Weeks v. Southern Bell Telephone & Telegraph Company, 408 F. 2d 228 (5th Cir. 1969)
  4. ^ "Business Registration". North Carolina Secretary of State. Archived from the original on 2012-03-14.