Congressmen, a former U.N. ambassador and a former president joined more than 5,000 mourners Saturday in remembering Maynard Jackson, Atlanta’s first black mayor and a political mastermind.
Jackson, who died Monday of a heart attack at age 65, influenced urban politics for decades after his 1973 election, including pioneering the practice of designating a portion of government contracts for minority-owned businesses.
Jackson “was a fearless, courageous, audacious leader,” said Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin. Former President Clinton paid tribute to his fellow Democrat, who helped him gain popularity in Georgia during his 1992 presidential campaign.
“He saw how good affirmative action worked for well-connected white folks and thought the rest should get a try,” Clinton said. “I loved every talk I ever had with him. I loved every argument I ever had with him.”
Former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young drew laughter as he described how Jackson persuaded him to run for mayor at a time when he was ready to put political struggles behind him.
“I was determined to stand up to him and say, ‘I have served my time. I have marched, I’ve been to jail, been beaten, and I’m through with politics.’ The next thing I know, I was ... running up and down the street shaking hands,” said Young, who was Atlanta’s mayor through most of the 1980s.
Attorney Vernon Jordan, George Democratic Rep. John Lewis and former Gov. Roy Barnes were also among those attending the funeral service at Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center.
Jordan noted that Jackson died the same week as former Sen. Strom Thurmond and former Georgia Gov. Lester Maddox, both of whom were known for their segregationist views.
“They, unlike Maynard, were on the wrong side of history,” Jordan said, drawing applause.
Lewis thanked Jackson, saying: “Your work on this earth is done, and we’re the better for it.”