This is an article that I was asked to write about Maynard Holbrook Jackson, the former Mayor of Atlanta. This started me writing about “history makers.”
What Manner of man was Maynard Holbrook Jackson? A Tribute to Maynard Holbrook Jackson, Jr., his life and legacy
By Bunnie Jackson-Ransom (written 2007)
Maynard Holbrook Jackson, Jr., a giant of a man in many ways, had his eyes on a prize from the day he was born on March 23, 1938. He might not have known this at that time, but those persons who surrounded him with love and support – his family – certainly did. Fortunate, blessed and/or privileged by way of education and travel, he came from a middle-class family background that afforded him an upper-hand. Maynard often repeated, “to whom much is given, much is expected”, and he lived his life in service to others. Maynard, Jr. was born in Dallas, TX and raised in Atlanta, GA. His father, The Reverend Maynard Holbrook Jackson, Sr., was a Baptist minister – the pastor of Atlanta’s Friendship Baptist church on Mitchell Street. His mother, Dr. Irene Dobbs Jackson, was a pianist and French professor at Spelman College and one of the six daughters of Irene Carolyn and John Welsey Dobbs, the Grand Master of Prince Hall Masons of Georgia and known as the Mayor of “Sweet” Auburn Avenue (Atlanta).
Maynard’s introduction to the political arena was the race he ran for the U. S. Senate in Georgia against Senator Herman Talmadge in 1968. At the tender age of 30, he was indeed “called” to the ministry of public service – he chose politics. Without the endorsement of the Black political power structure in Atlanta (such as it was), he just bubbled up. God must have planned to use this man; he entered politics with moral credits, without political credentials, because he recognized the need for honest, dedicated, committed leadership. Unfortunately, he lost the race for the U.S. Senate; but he carried the majority vote in the City of Atlanta. From this point forward, he was off and running. Maynard loved Atlanta and Atlantans love Maynard.
In 1970, Maynard Jackson became Atlanta’s first Black Vice-Mayor, his first elected position which he held for four years. During the 1973 campaign for mayor, Black Atlanta was energized and electrified; and when Maynard was elected mayor of Atlanta – the first Black man elected mayor of a major southern city – there was a fever pitch in the city among Black people (and some white people) unlike any other time.
Maynard Jackson served as Mayor of Atlanta from 1974 to 1982 and again from 1990 to 1994. His three terms as Mayor of Atlanta were distinguished by the creation of the city’s current Neighborhood Planning Unit system, a city comprehensive development plan, major construction, emphasis on the arts, mass transit, vertically integrated housing finance and production, streamlining the bureaucracy, some of the first international air routes and a dramatic increase in their number, increased presence of consulates and foreign trade offices, imports and exports, increasing employee incentives and productivity, record-setting new jobs creation, AAA bond ratings, and the most successful non-preference, non-quota affirmative action and equal opportunity programs in the nation. Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport, built under the leadership of Maynard, was completed ahead of schedule and under budget. [Atlanta’s airport was later re-named Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.] His years spent at Atlanta City Hall are still well regarded as times of unparalleled economic development and public-private partnerships, especially for Black people. These were also times of internationalism, racial harmony, and fiscal stability for Atlanta. FORTUNE magazine named Atlanta as the “Best American City” in which to do business in 1991 and 1993. In 1974, the American Institute for Public Service awarded Mayor Maynard Jackson the Jefferson Award for “The Greatest Public Service Performed by an American 35 Years Old or Under.”
Maynard Jackson was a man who heard the spirit of the people – the moans and groans of his fellow man and woman. He would rise early in the mornings to drive through the city and “think.” Stopping for donuts at Krispy Kream in West End, he would speak to people waiting for busses on Gordon Road and take notes of where he found pot-holes and dirty streets. When attending banquets, he rarely left the affair without a visit to the kitchen to have a word with the waiters and cooks who were always eager to greet him and to tell him what they thought was going wrong at city hall. After this routine, he would come back to his office and simply say, “fix it.”
After leaving public office, Maynard was not satisfied with what the public sector offered him, so he set out again to be an agent for change. He founded Jackson Securities Inc., a national institutional and retail investment bank headquartered in Atlanta with offices in Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Miami, Orlando, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York and Stamford, CT. Jackson Securities earned a reputation for unquestionable integrity, superior quality, prudence and outstanding performance in corporate finance, public finance, wealth management, private equity, structured finance, institutional equities and fixed-income trading. In 1985, he co-organized and became the Founding Chairman of the National Association of Securities Professionals (NASP). Another business venture that was near and dear to him was Jackmont Hospitality, Inc., a food service and restaurant company, which he co-founded with his daughter, Brooke Jackson Edmond and her partner, Dan Halpern.
Remembering what his father and grandfather taught him, one of his last actions was an effort to counteract voter disillusionment and apathy. Toward this end, Maynard resurrected his father’s dream and founded the American Voters League, Inc. (AVL) in 2002, a non-profit, non-partisan effort to increase national voter turnout among the underserved, especially African Americans. When he passed away, he was on his way to Washington, DC to raise funds for this organization. Unfortunately, the AVL, less than one year old, was a cause and a task that he never had a chance to finish.
Maynard’s life is a testimony to what one man can do to make a difference in the lives of many. Yes, he had a political agenda; it was an agenda for a better Atlanta. Yes, he was a politician; but he was a statesman and was in politics for a change and not for profit. A man of impeccable character, Maynard’s charge was always “Do the right thing.” He made a speech at the Atlanta Hungry Club [2/2003] in which he said, “What concerns me greatly about African Americans today is the amount of cowardice I see. We too often see African Americans in positions of power who can make a difference in our economic lives if they would simply use their power legally and ethically. Thank God for the many people who do. Regrettably, however, many brothers and sisters who could help, but don’t, are worried about what white America will say if they do. . . . These “do-nothing Negroes” are afflicted with a disease worse than anthrax, a disease worse than cholera, a disease called the scared Negro disease.”
Maynard Jackson earned the BA in Political Science and History from Morehouse College at age 18. He was awarded the Juris Doctor cum laude from the School of Law at North Carolina Central University, where some of his personal papers are now housed. He was the recipient of eight honorary degrees, a participant of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and Chubb Fellow at Yale University. Maynard married Bunnie (Hayes) Jackson-Ransom after his graduation from law school; they had three children — Elizabeth Jackson Hodges, Brooke Jackson Edmond and Maynard Holbrook Jackson, III. His first marriage ended in divorce and he then married Valerie J.R. Jackson, his surviving widow; from this union they had two daughters, Valerie Amanda Jackson Moghtadar, and Alexandra Jackson. He has five grandchildren – Isabella Daisy Jackson, Luke Jackson, Hayes Jackson Edmond, Brooke Lee Edmond and Cassandra Elizabeth Edmond. Maynard Holbrook Jackson, Jr. made his transition from us on June 23, 2003. We miss him very much but his memory lives on in the hearts and minds of Atlantans and people throughout the world. His legacy is an inspiration for those who still believe that one man can change the world around us.
“All the things I had toiled for…I must leave…to the one who comes after me.” Ecclesiastes 2:18 NIV