Maynard Jackson

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Maynard Holbrook Jackson, Jr.
54th & 56th Mayor of Atlanta, Georgia
In office
Preceded by Sam Massell
Succeeded by Andrew Young
In office
Preceded by Andrew Young
Succeeded by Bill Campbell
Personal details
Born (1938-03-23)March 23, 1938
Dallas, Texas
Died June 23, 2003(2003-06-23) (aged 65)
Arlington, Virginia
Resting place

Oakland Cemetery in

Atlanta, Georgia
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) (1) Burnella "Bunnie" Hayes (divorced)
(2) Valerie Richardson

Elizabeth, Brooke and Maynard, III (first marriage)

Valerie and Alexandria (second marriage)
Alma mater Morehouse College
Boston University Law School
North Carolina Central University Law School
Profession Attorney, Politician
Religion Baptist

Maynard Holbrook Jackson, Jr. (March 23, 1938 – June 23, 2003), was an American politician and attorney from Georgia, a member of the Democratic Party, and elected in 1973 at the age of 35 as the first African-American mayor of Atlanta, Georgia and of any major city in the South. He served three terms (1974–82, 1990–94), making him the second longest-serving mayor of Atlanta, after six-term mayor (1937-41, 1942-62) William B. Hartsfield.

He is notable also for public works projects, primarily a new terminal at the airport, and for greatly increasing minority business participation in the city.

Family history, background and personal life[edit]

Jackson was born into a family that valued education and political activism. His maternal grandfather was civil rights leader John Wesley Dobbs, who worked to successfully overturn the white primary in Georgia. He also gained the hiring of black police officers in Atlanta and lighting of Auburn Street, the main retail street of the black community. Maynard's mother Irene (Dobbs) Jackson was one of his five daughters; all graduated from Spelman College, encouraged by their parents. Irene earned a doctorate in France and became a Professor of French at the college. His father Maynard Holbrook Jackson, Sr. was a Baptist minister from New Orleans of Louisiana Creole mixed-race ancestry. He became active in civil rights in Dallas, Texas, where he had grown up after his family moved. His grandfather Alexander Stephens Jackson had been a Baptist minister and educator in Louisiana and Texas. The young Jackson's father died when he was fifteen; his grandfather Dobbs became even more influential in his life.[1]

Jackson attended Morehouse College, a historically black college for men in Atlanta, graduating in 1956 at the age of eighteen. He had sung in the Morehouse College Glee Club.[2] After attending the Boston University Law School for a short time, Jackson held several jobs, including selling encyclopedias. He returned to graduate studies, attending the North Carolina Central University Law School. He graduated with a law degree in 1964. He was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

Jackson married Burnella "Bunnie" Hayes, in 1965. The couple had three children: Elizabeth, Brooke, and Maynard III.[1] Bunnie Jackson founded First Class, Inc., a public relations and marketing firm in Atlanta, prior to their divorce.

Jackson married Valerie Richardson in 1977, to whom he was married for 25 years until his death. They have two daughters, Valerie and Alexandra.[1] Valerie Jackson hosts Between the Lines each weekend on the WABE-FM radio station, the Atlanta Public Broadcasting station.

Early career[edit]

Jackson worked as an attorney for the National Labor Relations Board and a legal services firm. He joined the Democratic Party.[1]

Political career[edit]

In 1968, Jackson at 30, decided to run for the US Senate against incumbent Herman Talmadge. His campaign was underfunded, and he lost, but Jackson won in Atlanta, gaining prominence in the city, which had a substantial black minority. The following year, he built on his strength, gaining election as vice mayor, who was presiding officer of the board of aldermen. At that time, Atlanta modified its city charter, strengthening the position of mayor and renaming the vice mayor as president of the city council (aldermen were now city council members).[1]

In 1973, Jackson was elected with 60 percent of the vote, as the first African-American mayor of Atlanta and any major southern city; he was supported by a coalition of white liberals/moderates and African Americans. At the age of 35, he had unseated incumbent Sam Massell.[1]

During his first term, Jackson worked to improve race relations in and around Atlanta after the polarization caused by the election campaign. As mayor, he led the beginnings and much of the progress on several huge public-works projects for the city and region. Affirmative action programs helped minority and women-owned businesses to participate.[1] He helped arrange for the upgrade of the then-William B. Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport's huge terminal (now Domestic Terminal) to modern standards. Jackson strongly opposed the construction of freeways through in-town neighborhoods, knowing that such actions destroyed thriving communities.

Jackson was mayor through the period when the separate Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) obtained a large amount of Federal funding for a rapid-transit rail-line system, when construction began, and when MARTA began its first rail transit service in Atlanta and in DeKalb County in 1979 and during its continual expansion thereafter. As mayor, he celebrated in September 1990 when Atlanta was selected as the host city for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. As mayor, he accepted the Olympic flag at the 1992 closing ceremonies in Barcelona, Spain. He oversaw the completion of many planned public works projects, such as improvements to freeways and parks, and the completion of Freedom Parkway, which were expedited from 1990 to 1996 in preparation for the Olympic Games that began in August 1996.

During Jackson's second term as mayor, the Atlanta Child Murders case was active between 1979 and 1981. He supported the Atlanta Police and other police forces in the area but also worked to calm public tensions aroused by the serial killings of black children. The murderer, Wayne Williams, was caught in 1981, tried, convicted, and sentenced to serve two consecutive life sentences in prison.

In 1974, Jackson received the Samuel S. Beard Award for Greatest Public Service by an Individual 35 Years or Under, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards.[3]

Racial controversy[edit]

Maynard Jackson provoked a major racial crisis in May 1974 when he attempted to fire the incumbent white police chief, John Inman. Jackson believed the change was needed to grapple with Atlanta's growing crime problem and charges by the black community of police racial insensitivity toward African Americans. Whites opposed the firing and racial tensions rose, detracting from Atlanta's proud motto: "too busy to hate."

In August 1974 Mayor Jackson appointed A. Reginald Eaves, a college friend and fellow activist, as Public Safety Commissioner. Eaves was criticized for lacking police experience. He generated controversy by appointing an ex-convict as his personal secretary but was criticized more for what was considered as a system of quota promotions and hiring in the police department, which many decried as "reverse discrimination."[4] Despite the outcry, Jackson retained Eaves in his post. By the spring of 1976, Atlanta enjoyed a drop in crime rates.[citation needed]

Jackson fired Eaves after revelation of a police exam cheating scandal.[5] Eaves was later convicted by a federal jury of extortion in 1988 after selling his vote on two rezonings.[6]

Atlanta's crime[edit]

In addition to the 1979–1981 Atlanta Child Murders mentioned above, residents were concerned about a rising crime rate during Mayor Jackson's tenure, which was consistent with national trends. In 1979, with a soaring murder rate and nationwide publicity about crime there, Georgia Governor George Busbee, acting on a request from Mayor Maynard Jackson, called in Georgia State Patrol troopers to help patrol the downtown. The business community accused Mayor Jackson and Police Chief George Napper of dismissing public concerns about crime. Atlanta had the highest murder rate and the highest overall crime rate of any city, and the numbers were rapidly climbing higher, with a 69% increase in homicides between 1978 and 1979 alone. Much of it was considered driven by drug wars.[citation needed]

Service to the Democratic National Committee[edit]

After leaving office as mayor, Jackson continued to be active with the Democratic Party. In 2001 he unsuccessfully sought the post as the Democratic National Committee chairman, losing to the fund-raiser Terry McAuliffe, who had the backing of former president Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton. Jackson was backed by Presidential candidate Bill Bradley, among others.

Jackson was appointed as the National Development Chairman of the Democratic National Committee and was the first Chairman of the DNC Voting Rights Institute. In 2002, he founded the American Voters League, a non-profit and non-partisan effort to increase national voter participation. He appeared briefly in the 2001 documentary

Legacy and honors[edit]

  • In 2008 the Southside Comprehensive High School was renamed the Maynard Holbrook Jackson High School.
  • In 2003, Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport had Jackson's name added to it, and in 2012 the airport's new international terminal was named for him.[7]
  • In 2015 a documentary film about his life and work, entitled Maynard, was in preparation, directed by Samuel D. Pollard. It is expected to be released in 2016.[8]


Jackson died in 2003 at the age of 65, of a cardiac arrest at a hospital in Arlington, Virginia after suffering a heart attack at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. His remains are buried at the Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Bradley R. Rice, "Maynard Jackson (1938-2003)", New Georgia Encyclopedia, edited 6 January 2016, accessed 7 April 2016
  2. ^ "Honoring Maynard Holbrook Jackson". Congressional Record: 15755. 2003-06-23. 
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ "A. Reginald Eaves", Atlanta Unfiltered, 6 September 2009
  5. ^ "Maynard Holbrook Jackson, Jr.", Encyclopedia of World Biography, at Bookrags
  6. ^ "Scalawag", Atlanta Magazine
  7. ^ "Maynard Jackson, Jr. (1938-2003)", Black Past, accessed 7 April 2016
  8. ^ Errin Haines Whack, "Maynard Jackson documentary in the works", Atlanta Magazine, 25 June 2015, accessed 7 April 2016

Further reading[edit]

  • Gary Pomerantz, Where Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn: The Saga of Two Families and the Making of Atlanta (New York: Penguin Books, 1996)

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Sam Massell
Mayor of Atlanta
Succeeded by
Andrew Young
Preceded by
Andrew Young
Mayor of Atlanta
Succeeded by
Bill Campbell