NEW YORK – Maynard Jackson Jr. made history as Atlanta’s first black mayor. “Maynard,” the documentary about his life, has a premiere here in New York tonight.
“I’m old enough to remember when he first became mayor,” said Oscar nominated, Emmy-winning director, editor and producer Sam Pollard, whose work includes “Slavery By Another Name,” “Eyes on the Prize,” “25th Hour,” “4 Little Girls,” “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts” and “Clockers.” “It was like an astounding thing to see a Southern city elect a black mayor.”
The film includes interviews with former President Bill Clinton, Revs. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and Joseph Lowery Jackson’s predecessor in office, former Atlanta Mayor Sam Massell and his successors including former Mayor and UN Ambassador Andrew Young, former Mayor Shirley Franklin and current Mayor Kasim Reed.
Jackson was elected in 1973 and in 1974 became the first black mayor not only of our town but of any major Southern city. He served eight years and then returned for a third term in 1990, after Young’s time in the position. Jackson played a vital role in bringing the 1996 Olympic Games to Atlanta. His key legacy, of course, is the Maynard H. Jackson Jr. International Terminal at what is now officially called Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
The AJC visited the filming set the day Franklin sat for an interview.
“He loved very deeply and was very passionate about his work,” she said. “Maynard’s advice to me when I was running was that I needed a ‘kitchen’ cabinet, not just a city cabinet. He always felt that you needed to have outside advice and counsel. For him, that was people from all walks of life.”
She also had a humorous anecdote to share, too. in 1975, the year of the famous “Thrilla in Manila” bout between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, and Jackson got in the ring with Ali, a publicity lark that advertised the Atlanta Falcons.
Although Ali would prevail against Smokin’ Joe in the Philippine Coliseum, he lost the “match” against Jackson. In the photo, the late Julian Bond, then a Georgia state senator who would go on to serve as chairman of the NAACP, holds Jackson’s glove aloft in triumph.
As the photo opportunity neared, Jackson’s staff was tasked with finding him a pair of boxing trunks, but the sturdily built public servant wouldn’t reveal his size, Franklin said.
“They had to guess!” she said.
The AJC will be at tonight’s premiere. Return for updates.