Interview with Maynard Jackson

OK, now I'd like to ask you to go back, you had a phrase that we thought was pretty interesting, you were accused of going too far, too fast and being too Black. Could you play that back for us, how that worked?


Well, again remember the environment, right? We're going from a city where zero-point-five percent of the contracts went to Black people. Ah, you had, only, only one Black department head ever had been hired. Ah, that was, ah, not very much within the relative, ah, size of the government and so forth. And um, we had nowhere to go but up, I mean, truly had nowhere to go but up. Our interest was in running a good government. Strong management, fiscal responsible, all these things, right? To run a good government, it had to be done well and fairly. So affirmative action, therefore, was not just a, a dream or kind of a nice side thing. Not throwing a, you know, throwing a, a, a plum to the Black community. It was a necessity. I've had people to tell me, "Well, Maynard, you were just too Black. Ah, you went, you tried, you were too pushy." So I would remind them that, you know, "I had tried to negotiate this, and I had tried to negotiate that, not one or two days, but I mean, months and months, and a year and a half in one case. And got nowhere. And it was only then that we had to, to, ah, to be more aggressive, to take, to do what was necessary, whatever it was." If anything I had begun to feel that I was not pushing hard enough. And then I had someone to tell me, I had a friend, ah, ah, a White friend who, ah, said that to me one day, said, "Maynard, you, you know, you were too Black." I said, "I don't know what you mean." I said, "We're a better city today because we had good policies that were sound." He said, "No, you know, you wouldn't even appoint anybody White." I said, "That's really interesting," I said, "I had four chief administrative officers. Three of them I appointed were White." He said, "Oh yeah, well, well, I kind of forgot about that, but um, well, you know, we asked you to appoint a White police chief." Which was true, by the way, I had a group come to me, and, of White leaders, and to say, ah, we'd like you to appoint a White police chief. And I asked, "Did they have any other criteria in mind?" Because I wasn't going to appoint anybody Black just because they were Black. And I was not going to appoint anybody White, just because they were White. But back to this fellow, this friend of mine, he said, "Well, you know, you wouldn't appoint a White police chief." I said, "The first police chief I appointed was White." "Well, no it wasn't." I said, "Yes, it was. It was Clint Chafin." He said, "Oh, oh yeah, that's right. But that didn't count, because of this and that." So what I've had to deal with is this, the transition attitude of good people, frankly not even knowing how to react to these initiatives, with my trying to stay on even keel, trying not to get mad, because I feel like I'm being put upon, that I'm being unfairly attacked and I was, trying to be patient with the transition, with people who are good-hearted people, who love Atlanta, but just did not understand the necessity and the desirability of the kind of transition that I had to lead. We were change agents for the better, and we were determined integration would be a working reality and not just a word.