By Sherri Banks, Special to the NNPA from The Atlanta Voice –
ATLANTA – Hundreds of dignitaries and guests attended a reception in the Atlanta University Center recently to honor the city's first Black mayor and launch an exhibit to display artifacts from his years in political and community activism.
The exhibit, called "The People's Mayor: Maynard Jackson and the Politics of Transformation," was unveiled at the Robert W. Woodruff Library last week on what would have been Maynard Jackson's 73rd birthday.
The traveling exhibition and the Maynard Jackson Mayoral Administrative Records collection "offer insight into the fascinating and complex political life of one the country's most impressive leaders," organizers say.
The exhibit explores Jackson's rise to prominence as the first African-American mayor in a major Southern city, and features 560 boxes of photographs, documents, and artifacts spanning 1968 to 1994.
Also presented are speeches, news clippings, proclamations, and campaign material from Jackson's terms as mayor and vice mayor.
"Maynard Jackson engineered a new future for the city and its citizens," said Loretta Parham, CEO and library director.
"Announcing the opening of the collection is truly a celebratory event for the library.
"We're honored to be the custodians of Jackson's administrative records and excited to make the collection available to the public for research," she added. "The traveling exhibition is also impressive, and visitors to the exhibition will find it to be not only educational but also quite engaging."
Noteworthy items in the collection include materials related to:
•The development of MARTA and Hartsfield International Airport (later renamed Hartsfield-Jackson in his honor)
•The Atlanta Child Murders
•The creation of Neighborhood Planning Units
•The city's winning bid to host the 1996 Summer Olympics
Attending last week's ceremony, current Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed called Jackson "a man of excellence who shattered race barriers."
Reed also recalled Jackson's commitment to mentoring others, saying that many successful politicians, entrepreneurs, and civic leaders owe their success to Jackson's support – him included.
Ingrid Saunders Jones, senior vice president at the Coca-Cola Company, said Jackson was committed to those he mentored, but held them to high standards.
"He had exacting professional standards," she said, "and to succeed with him as mentor meant that one could succeed anywhere."
Sherryle Puryear, who worked with Jackson in investment banking, recalled that he was a stickler for grammar, both the spoken and written.
"He used to call me Rambo because he admired my determination to produce excellence," she said.
Former Mayor Shirley Franklin, a protégé of Jackson's, also attended last week's event, honoring the man who mentored her and inspired her to become the city's first female mayor and the first Black female mayor of a major Southern city.
Another former mayor, Andrew Young, appeared in a video in which he said his own mayoral candidacy began after he accepted an invitation from Jackson to meet and discuss politics. Young accepted Jackson's challenge to run for office and went on to serve two terms as mayor.
Jackson was elected mayor of Atlanta in 1973 and became the city's youngest mayor at age 35. Re-elected in 1977, he could not run for a third consecutive term, but returned years later for a third term, winning in 1989.
His greatest legacy is widely considered to be in municipal affirmative action programs that set the standard for American cities, especially those with Black majorities.
He also guided the expansion of Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport and fought to ensure that bBlack-owned companies got a piece of the pie at every level.
Jackson suffered a heart attack in 2003 and died at age 65.