Shirley Franklin accomplished in 2002 a feat that no other African American woman at the time could lay claim to. On January 7th, she was sworn in as the Mayor of Atlanta, and won so by a considerable margin. She has gone on to continue her career as a respected politician, and continues to be a recognized name in the Democratic party. With odds currently in Senator Clinton’s favor, women like Franklin broke down the barriers that are still preventing women from having access to equal pay, employment, and similar opportunities as their male counterparts.
Born on May 10th, 1945, she graduated from Harvard University while also spending time at the University of Pennsylvania. Her college choices rounded out an already impressive start to her life as a politician before she even became a mayor. In 1978, she served under Mayor Maynard Jackson as the commissioner of cultural affairs. This position led to her being chosen as the chief administrative officer, the first woman in the nation for that achievement. In an interesting twist, she also served as the senior vice-president for external relations in 1991 for the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games.
Her wit and great ability to handle the public led her into office as the 58th mayor of Atlanta, which also led to a reelection in 2005. In total she has served the position faithfully for 10 solid years, a great run that has landed her multiple awards. She has been named one of the five best big city mayors and was also nominated for the World Mayor Award. Her current position has her as the CEO of Purpose Built Communities, while also working part time as a professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.
It’s not always easy to be the first at something, and in the case of Franklin, she managed to break both color and gender lines all in one go. The fire for her campaign was lit due to the rampant corruption surrounding former Mayor Bill Campbell’s assignment. It was enough to not only get her started in improving the community, but to make history for herself and other African Americans. She is still going strong and will continue to be remembered as a woman that gets things done.