Happy Birthday to Maynard Jackson, Atlanta’s First-Ever Black Mayor

0 Posted by - March 24, 2021 - Birthdays

Photo credits: Auburn Avenue Films

Maynard Holbrook Jackson, Jr. (picture) was a U.S.-born lawyer and politician that became the first-ever African American mayor of Atlanta, Georgia.

Jackson served three terms as the major Southern city’s (1974–82 and 1990–94). He was born on March 23, 1938, in the city of Dallas, Texas. Jackson’s father was a Baptist minister and his mother a collegiate French professor. After excelling in high school, he entered Morehouse College through a special-entry program. Jackson received a bachelor’s degree in political science and history from Morehouse in 1956. 

Soon thereafter, he attempted law school but was forced to drop out. Later, Jackson regained his focus and enrolled in North Carolina Central University School of Law. He received a J.D. degree in 1964 and found work as an attorney for the National Labor Relations Board in Atlanta. Jackson was a member of the Democratic Party. He made his first attempt at an elective office in 1968 by running for the U.S. Senate.

Although Jackson was unsuccessful, he caught the public’s eye by gaining the office of Atlanta’s vice mayor in 1969. His runoff victory in 1973 over the white incumbent under whom he had served as vice mayor was widely seen as a turning point for the “New South.” Atlanta’s population was nearly 50 percent black back then. However, a high population does not magically grant any ethnic group access to a local power structure.

Jackson implemented an affirmative action program to ensure that minorities shared in the prosperity of the expanding city through municipal contracts. One of his major achievements was overseeing the expansion of Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport. The landmark became a major transportation hub, “ahead of schedule and under budget,” Jackson said. (It was renamed Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport after his death.) 

He reformed the police force and worked to maintain calm when the city was terrorized by a string of child murders. After Jackson’s reelection in 1977, he was barred from a third consecutive term. Instead, he subsequently supported the successful candidacy of Andrew Young. Jackson then worked as a municipal bond attorney while staying active in the political realm of Atlanta.

In his third bid for the mayoralty, he was swept into office with nearly 80 percent of the vote. Jackson also gave himself credit for bringing the 1996 Olympic Summer Games to Atlanta. Ill health led to his decision against seeking a further term, and he returned to the bond business, founding his own firm.

Jackson died on June 23, 2003, in Arlington, Virginia.

Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2021, March 19). Maynard JacksonEncyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Maynard-Jackson

*BlackThen.com writer/historian Victor Trammell edited and contributed to this report.

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