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Maynard Jackson Jr.

Family-Placed Death Notice

MAYNARD HOLBROOK JACKSON JR. Political, civic and social justice reform champion, former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Holbrook Jackson, Jr., 65, died June 23, 2003. For more than a quarter of a century, he stood locally and nationally as a progressive political force elevating diversity and equality with remarkable resolve. At 35, in 1973, he became the country's youngest mayor of a major city and the first African-American mayor of a large southern city. As a statesman and entrepreneur, in public and private life, he served as a profound role model to African-Americans, sharing his intellect and tireless activism to generations that have followed. During the turbulent 1970s, a time of political transition in America, worsened by a looming national recession, he achieved unprecedented social and economic gains for minorities as an enlightened and energetic fighter for public policy reform. A gifted, charismatic orator, he guided Atlantans through three terms in office into an era of prosperity transforming the southern urban center into the burgeoning New South. The great-grandson of slaves, the legacy of his ancestors and the realities of the slowly eroding segregated society in which he lived, forged a life-long commitment to social and political justice. The third of six children, Maynard Jackson, Jr., was born in Dallas, Texas in 1938 to the Reverend Maynard Jackson, Sr., the first African-American to run for a seat on the Dallas school board, and Irene Dobbs Jackson, Spelman College valedictorian in 1929, who later earned a doctorate in French from the University of Toulouse in France. In 1945, his family moved to Atlanta, where his father became Pastor of Friendship Baptist Church. With the death of his beloved father in 1953, his maternal grandfather, John Wesley Dobbs, a leading local political activist who coined the nickname for what would become Atlanta's "Sweet Auburn" historic district, shepherded his grandson's growth to maturity as he had done with his six children, all daughters and graduates of Spelman College, later earning master's degrees. His fifth daughter, Mattiwilda, became an internationally acclaimed opera star. Grandfather Dobbs, recognizing the early poise and oratory skills of his grandson, encouraged him to become a lawyer and devote his intellect and energy to advancing African-American political power, "through the book, the ballot and the buck, the gateway to racial equality". A child prodigy, Maynard Jackson, Jr., was 14 years old when he entered Morehouse College, graduating at 18, in 1956, with a bachelor's degree in political science and history. Before entering North Carolina Central University Law School, he worked for a time for the state of Ohio Bureau of Unemployment Compensation and later, as he would fondly recall, sold encyclopedias door-to-door. In 1964, as a Phi Beta Kappa, he graduated cum laude from law school. In 1965, he returned to Atlanta as an attorney for the National Labor Relations Board and later served with the Emory Community Legal Services Center, providing free legal services to low-income Atlantans. That year, he married Burnella "Bunnie" Hayes Burke; they had three children, daughters Brooke and Elizabeth, and son Maynard "Buzzy", III. The couple divorced in 1976. A turning point in his life was marked with the assassination in 1968 of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr, a close friend of the Dobbs family, and the assassination that same year of Robert Kennedy. Within months, Maynard Jackson, Jr., launched his first political race, becoming the first African-American to run for statewide office in Georgia since Reconstruction, in a campaign he was destined to lose against Georgia's legendary Democratic U.S. Senator Herman Talmadge. Candidate Jackson countered the campaign's racial overtones running ads, "Maynard Jackson doesn't intend to be a "Negro Senator'. He is dedicated to representing all the people of Georgia." A year later, he successfully campaigned to become Atlanta's first African-American Vice Mayor. As the city's evolving demographics began reshaping Atlanta's political landscape, in 1973, he campaigned successfully against incumbent Mayor Sam Massell to become Atlanta's first African-American mayor, winning with nearly 60 percent of the vote. During his first term, he was the first mayor in 100 years to serve under a new Atlanta Charter, restricting a mayor to a limit of two successive terms. After his first term in office, Mayor Jackson was reelected for a second term. In 1977, he married his beloved, Valerie Richardson, whom he met at a party at the home of singing star Roberta Flack. The couple had two children, Valerie Amanda and Alexandra. During his first two-terms as mayor of the City of Atlanta, from 1974 to 1982, the city gained national prominence through milestone initiatives including the city and country's first minority participation program, shifting the paradigm from equal employment opportunity to business opportunity. In 1976, his pioneering program was patterned by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation William Coleman. Under Mayor Jackson's leadership, for the first time in Atlanta history, numerous appointments of women and blacks were made to high office. His determination to advance equality raised the bar for the city's long-term economic development, housing, infrastructure, transportation, urban planning, citizen participation, and modern, centralized administrative management. His steadfast, visionary guidance produced the world's largest airport, Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport, "under budget and ahead of schedule", he often proudly reflected, and with that, the creation of the controversial affirmative action/joint venture program he championed through city contracts that grew from one percent in 1973 to 38.6 percent within five years. Mayor Jackson's affirmative action successes were soon patterned throughout the United States and internationally. To further community and minority inclusion, he established the city's Neighborhood Planning Unit initiative, a cornerstone of community planning and revitalization still in place today. At the end of his second term, Mayor Jackson's eloquence and statesmanship soothed a strained city that had deeply suffered through a series of missing and murdered children. His second term was followed by the Rev. Andrew J. Young, local and national political luminary, who became Atlanta's next mayor. Mayor Jackson returned to private life as a bond attorney and managing partner of the Atlanta office of Chicago-based Chapman & Cutler. In 1985, he co-organized and became Founding Chairman of the National Association of Securities Professionals, an equal opportunity trade association for minorities and women. In 1990, he returned as Atlanta's mayor winning 79 percent of the vote. During his third term, from 1990 to 1994, his national prominence accelerated as a spokesman for American cities. He served as president of the National Conference of Democratic Mayors and president of the National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials. His determination to advance Atlanta's international stature, for which he had laid a foundation that was catapulted during Mayor Young's term, was seen in his tireless, ever-optimistic work to win, the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games. Mayor Jackson helped secure the victory and in 1992, accepted the International Olympic flag in Barcelona, Spain in behalf of the City of Atlanta. Despite his political strength, with a public approval rating of 70 percent, Mayor Jackson chose not to run for a fourth term due to health and personal reasons. While giving up the role of Centennial Olympic Games' host mayor, he established Jackmont Hospitality, Inc., a retail and institutional food and beverage services company with his daughter Brooke, and Jackson Securities, Inc., an investment banking firm, headquartered in Atlanta, which expanded steadily with offices in Houston, Miami, Orlando, Los Angeles and San Francisco. In 1996, Jackson Securities was named one of America's top five black investment banking companies by Black Enterprise magazine. Remaining fiercely active in local and National Democratic Party efforts, in 2001, he put his full political strength behind the candidacy of an African-American woman running her first political race and helped secure victory for Atlanta's first woman mayor, Shirley Franklin. That same year, the former mayor founded the American Voters League, a national initiative for the DNC to increase voter turnout in local and state elections. Among the honors and leadership appointment he received during a lifetime of public service, Mayor Jackson was named by Georgia Governor Roy E. Barnes to the board of the Georgia Department of Industry, Trade and Tourism, serving as chair of the International Trade Committee; founding chairman of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Committee (USCM) on the arts; founding chairman of USCM's Special Committee on the Census Undercount; chairman of President Jimmy Carter's Local Government Energy Policy Advisory Commission; vice chairman of the White House Commission on the Windfall Profits Tax; chairman of the Rebuild America Coalition; founding chairman of the Atlanta Economic Development Corporation, Urban Residential Finance Authority and co-founder of the Urban Residential Development Corporation; member of Fannie Mae Advisory Board; director of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and Central Atlanta Progress. He served as founder, chairman and principal teacher of the Maynard Jackson Youth Foundation, Inc., a trustee of Morehouse College, a national board member of the NAACP, a member of the corporate boards of Bingwa Software and, and a member of ICF Kaiser International, Inc. Upon leaving office at the end of his third term, the Atlanta Journal/Constitution described Mayor Jackson's first eight years: "He ran a competent, energetic and clean administration that silenced white Atlantans who had predicted disaster. When he left office in 1982, he had eased the city through a difficult transition and earned its eternal gratitude." An everlasting loving and devoted presence for his family, Mayor Maynard Jackson, Jr. is survived by his beloved wife of 25 years Valerie; daughter Elizabeth Hodges and son-in-law C. Howie Hodges; daughter Brooke Edmond and son-in-law Dr. Rod Edmond; son Maynard Holbrook Jackson, III; daughters Valerie Amanda and Alexandra Josephine; grandchildren Isabella Daisy Jackson, Hayes Jackson Edmond, and Brooke Lee Irene Edmond; sisters Carol Ann Miller and Constance Carter; and brother Paul Jackson; brothers-in-law Charles Richardson, R.H. Richardson and Monty Richardson; sisters-in-law Ruth Richardson; and a host of nieces and nephews. The Jackson family requests that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to the Maynard Jackson Youth Foundation, c/o Mr. John Holley, 100 Peachtree Street, NW, Suite 2250, Atlanta, Georgia 30303. Celebration of Life Services for Maynard Holbrook Jackson Jr. will be held Saturday, June 28, 2003 at 11 a.m. at the Atlanta Civic Center, 395 Piedmont Ave., NE, Atlanta, Georgia. Interment PRIVATE, Oakland Cemetery. Murray Brothers Funeral Home, Cascade Chapel, 1199 Utoy Springs Rd. SW, Atlanta, Georgia 30331. 404-349-3000.
Published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution from June 25 to June 28, 2003
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