Rolling Out

Legendary Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson honored on 50th anniversary of election

The brilliant and charismaatic Jackson changed the sociopolitical complexion of the ‘Capital of the New South’
Maynard Jackson (Image source: YouTube/Kiss 104 FM)

The city that became known worldwide as “The Black Mecca” originated when a charismatic and brilliant lawyer named Maynard Jackson became the first Black mayor of Atlanta in 1974.

Atlanta City Hall hosted the commemoration of the remarkable life of the late trailblazing legal lion, social activist, and political powerhouse on the 50th anniversary of his election.

Former mayors Shirley Franklin, Kasim Reed, Keisha Lance Bottoms, Bill Campbell, and other dignitaries attended the prestigious proceedings.

Current Mayor Andre Dickens told the august body of luminaries, “I’m living in that legacy of Maynard Jackson and all the other mayors,” WSB-TV reported.

“When it comes to history, being the first man sometimes is not as important as being the right man,” Dickens said, according to Newsbreak. “Maynard Holbrook Jackson Jr. was indeed the right man at the right time in this city’s history.”

YouTube video

Jackson made history on multiple fronts. He was the first Black CEO of Atlanta and the first African American to be a mayor of any city in the South.

Moreover, the great-great-grandson of a former Georgia enslaved person became the city’s youngest mayor ever and, eventually, the only mayor to serve an unprecedented three full terms in the ATL (1974-82 and 1990-94).

“I don’t think I was old enough to really understand the magnitude of the moment and the trajectory of history,” said Jackson’s eldest daughter, Elizabeth Jackson Hodges, according to WSB-TV. “But as I grew older, I was able to recognize it, embrace it and feel it.”

Maynard Holbrook Jackson Jr. was born in Dallas in 1938, the son of a Baptist minister who was a fixture in the pulpit and the Civil Rights Movement. In 1968, the same year that Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated, the 30-year-old Jackson began his political career by running for the U.S. Senate seat against incumbent Herman Tallmadge.

Jackson lost the race, mostly due to underfunding, but he became a star in Atlanta. In 1970, Jackson became the first Black vice mayor in Atlanta’s history, and in 1973, he was the first-ever African American to be elected mayor.

His legal and political achievements are innumerable. But he is mainly remembered for his demand to open up contracts to African Americans at what is now the busiest airport in the world, creating a multitude of wealthy Black businessmen and women. Today, the airport is named in his honor as Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

YouTube video

Jackson’s political successors sang his praises as they paid homage to the transcendent figure at Atlanta City Hall on Jan. 7, 2024.

“Every single brick at the Atlanta airport, every part of the runways, every single thing that’s there was built and constructed by African American mayors,” said Former Mayor Bill Campbell, according to WSB-TV.

“Him serving as mayor helped me to be able to dream big. I didn’t know I would be mayor one day, but he made it possible, and he represents possibility,” former Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms added.

Former Mayor Kasim Reed is still awed at how Jackson’s work with the Atlanta airport turned the town into a major international city.

“Hartsfield-Jackson Airport is really irreplaceable, and it gives the city of Atlanta a competitive advantage that can’t be matched in the southeast,” Reed said.

“He taught me that in order to be a good mayor you had to love all of the job,” he explained.

U.S. Congresswoman Nikema Williams told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “[Jackson] centered the people that he served, that’s how he got elected, that’s why his legacy is enduring and lasting.”

YouTube video
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Join our Newsletter

Sign up for Rolling Out news straight to your inbox.

Read more about:
Also read
Rolling Out