I Remember Maynard Jackson

Atlanta Memories Since 1970

 

Maynard Jackson Blog Photo

By Ashleigh Woody

Take a brief moment and think back with me to the 1970s in Atlanta, Georgia. Underground Atlanta just opened, and Atlanta Brave Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run, breaking Babe Ruth's long-held record. The civil rights movement was still in uproar after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I remember how rare it was to see two people of different races openly greet and support one another, but it happened to me often. Often in 1977, the year I started Pearlman Asoociates Inc., I parked at Davison's (now 200 Peachtree) on Carnegie Way and walked to the former Atlanta Journal-Constitution to hand deliver news releases. Often a chubby auburn hand crossed the street to shake mine. That hand belonged to Maynard Holbrook Jackson Jr.

I remember him well—I will never forget the first African American mayor of Atlanta.  He served the first of three terms in 1974, a campaign I am proud to have worked on. I was one of three Caucasians on the campaign.

I remember helping to design and distribute flyers. At the time I was a high school English and communications teacher. I made phone calls and went from door to door asking people to vote for Maynard. He appreciated those who worked on his campaign, especially those who were not of the same color. 

I remember the several times I asked his advice about the city. Much like traditional mom and pop doctors, he would return my call when he finished his day. Sometimes that might be at 7 or 8 o’clock. That was very genuine on his part. You don’t find that personalized service nowadays.

I remember it was a beginning of a time in Atlanta when people were beginning to look at each other differently. It took people, black and white, years to catch on to interracial relationships, business or personal.

I remember the comments my friends made to me. They gave me grief, but I was never ashamed. “Why would you want to support a black man?” they asked. He was a good man and, “he would make a great mayor,” I told them, and he did.

I remember the nods of acceptance from those same skeptics. “Ah, well your guy won,” they said. Never did they apologize or retract the things they said. It takes time for people to change the way they feel.

Jackson died in 2003 at the age of 65, of a cardiac arrest at an Arlington, Virginia hospital.  He suffered a heart attack at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. The Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport was renamed theHartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in his honor, shortly after his death.

 

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