Working with Maynard Jackson

Published 6:28 pm Tuesday, August 7, 2018

During my career, one of the most interesting persons I had the pleasure of working for was Maynard Holbrook Jackson, Atlanta’s first African-American mayor. Jackson first arrived on the scene in Georgia as a vice mayor of Atlanta. Not being content with being in the background, Jackson in 1975, became for historic purposes, the state’s first African-American mayor of a major metropolitan city.

Revitalization of inner-city communities was a major concern for Jackson, who during his first administration not only talked the talk, but also walked the walk by moving into a southwest Atlanta neighborhood that had previously been plagued with crime. The southwest area attracted upwardly-mobile blacks and even wealthy whites. A visit, even today, to the Grant Park of the city will attest to his influence in bringing whites back into the city who had believed that blacks being in power would destabilize healthy neighborhoods.

Jackson also influenced and benefited the virtually all-white arts community. He appointed Michael Lomax, as a kind of Arts Czar of Atlanta, who was responsible for much of the later influences on the arts in the city, particularly theater. The 1970s and 80s were, in the opinion of some, the best times for the city. It was under Jackson’s administration that the city developed its reputation as an international city.

I had the privilege of working under Jackson. The opportunity occurred in 1980. A career diplomat on loan from the United States government and I were employed under the Bureau of Cultural Affairs to handle the growing number of international visitors who were attracted to Atlanta. It quickly became evident to me that Jackson’s reputation as a leader extended beyond the borders of this country. Heads of state from around the world wanted their country to develop partnerships with Jackson’s Atlanta.

As the acting director of international affairs, I personally facilitated the visits of some very famous dignitaries whom I had only read about or seen in the news. Royalty was also impressed with Atlanta’s reputation. It was during the period that I worked with the city that my office assisted in coordinating the first visit to Atlanta of Prince Charles of Wales.

Atlanta’s reputation was soaring so high in the 80s that even supporters of the city knew that the honeymoon could not last. It ended when a monster entered the city to kidnap and murder the city’s precious children. The perpetrator of this terror was eventually arrested but the city really never recovered from the crisis.