Andrew Young: The Atlanta History Center is “also a Future Center”

Former Atlanta Mayor and UN Ambassador Andrew Young at the Swan House at the Atlanta History Center. ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

Former Atlanta Mayor and UN Ambassador Andrew Young was part of  “Atlanta Then and Now,” an extraordinary event sponsored by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week at the Atlanta History Center.

Panelists including Young, former AJC Managing Editor Hank Klibanoff, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning “The Race Beat” and host of “Buried Truths,” a new WABE podcast launching March 26; the Rev. Bernice King, former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, historian David Garrow, author of the Pulitzer-winning “Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference” and Trumpet Awards founder Xernona Clayton gathered  to discuss the life and legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The discussion, moderated by AJC editor Kevin Riley, was followed by Channel 2’s special, “The Last Days of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”

Young will be back at the History Center next month, as he and former Mayor Sam Massell are being honored at this year’s Swan House Ball, the Atlanta History Center’s signature fundraising event. Ahead of time, we were able to interview Young and Massell about their thoughts on Atlanta, its history and its future.

“The History Center is also a Future Center,” Young said. “You have to build the future on the foundations of the past. You forget your past and your history to your own detriment. It’s important for us to know how we got here in order to be sure we’re going in the right direction.”

MORE: Former Mayors Young and Massell team up for charity

Here is the audio of our wide-ranging interview:

Among other topics we discussed whether Young will be showing off any of his dance steps at the upcoming gala. His bum knees may prevent him from tearing it up too much, but don’t doubt that he’s got the moves:

The 2018 Swan House Ball starts at 6:30 p.m. April 21 with cocktails served on the lawn of the Swan House, followed by dinner, dancing and a brief live auction at the Grand Overlook Ballroom inside the History Center’s main building.

Ginny Brewer and Patrice Greer are the event chairs.  Corporate chairs are Ernest Greer and John Shlesinger, the host committee and patron chairs are Jack Sawyer and Bill Torres and Millie and Steve Smith, the Ladies & Gentlemen’s Committee chairs are Barbara and Eric Joiner and patron party hosts are Lorri and Forrest McClain. Key sponsors include the Chick-fil-A Foundation, Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s International Realty, Greenberg Traurig, the Coca-Cola Co., Cox Enterprises Inc., Delta Air Lines, Jenny and Bob Pruitt and Wells Fargo.

My first memory of the Swan House was the visit of Princess Margaret,” Young said ” I’d been here before but something stood out about that. That was during the Olympics. It was a really hot day and she had on gloves above her elbows and her usual royal dress. I was wringing wet and she never even perspired, much less glowed. I kept wondering, there must be a royal gene for dealing with the diversity of climate all over the world. It was a wonderful occasion and it was sort of like the Old South coming together with the New South.”

The annual Swan House Ball supports the Atlanta History Center’s award-winning student education programs. More than 65,000 school children from across the state, including more than 8,000 Title I Atlanta Public School students who will participate this year free of charge, enjoy the programs annually.

“I appreciate history because the more you understand it the more you make sense of what’s going on now,” Young said. “History has been messy just like it’s messy today. There are things we remember from the past that anchor us to deal with the future.”

For Swan House Ball sponsorship and ticket information, contact Cheri Snyder at or Katherine Hoogerwerf at

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