Interview with Maynard Jackson

Okey doke, so let's go into this notion of your being a transition mayor.


Well, um, the obvious, of course, was I was the first Black mayor of Atlanta. In some ways my predecessor, Sam Massell may have been a transition, ah, in that he was not of the normal mold for Atlanta's mayors, except that, I think, pretty much of all Atlanta's mayors in modern history, Hartsfield, Allen, Massell, myself and Andy Young, all have had Atlanta's best interests at heart. Ah, but the interpretations are different. Now, it fell in my lot to be the first Black mayor, and to kind of get really serious about, ah, building an even playing field, as the expression goes. When I became mayor, zero-point-five percent of all the contracts in the city of Atlanta went to Afro-Americans, in a city which at that time was, 50-50**, and today is about 70 percent Black. Um, there were no women department heads. Ah, this was not only a question of race, it was a question also of sexual discrimination and, you know, all the typical -isms, if there's one, normally there is a whole bunch of them, and um, they were all there. Ah, we had to change dramatically how the appointments to jobs went, ah, normal hiring practices in city government went, the, ah, contracting process, not to reduce the quality by the way, ever. We never ever, ever set up a lower standard. And those who say, "Well, affirmative action means you've got to lower the standard", that's a real insult, in my opinion, to African-Americans and other minority Americans. We never did it, didn't have to do it. We built the Atlanta Airport, biggest terminal building complex in the world, ahead of schedule, and within budget, and simultaneously rewrote the books on affirmative action. Atlanta Airport alone accounted for 89 percent of all the affirmative action in America, in all of America's airports. And the FAA told us that. We didn't know it. So you don't have to sacrifice, and we didn't. So our transition, therefore, was not just a question of race and sex and equal opportunity for women and equal opportunity for minorities, it was also a question of proving the point that we could manage well, and we did. We put new management systems in top to bottom, ah, that we could, ah, have equal rights and equal opportunity and not sacrifice quality. That we could begin to live up to our advance billing as a city, more than we did. I'm proud of Atlanta. And I'm proud of the fact that we are, I think the best in the nation among the major cities in race relations. But, the time had come for us to begin to put our money and our jobs where our mouths were. To the, to the credit of this city, as time went on, in my, ah, service as a mayor, a number of people really began, who were opposed to our, our policies, in affirmative action, for example, ah, who felt that, um, it was unfair, that it was being too pushy and so forth, ah, who forgot all about the fact that I took 18 months to negotiate with the banks, never held a press conference.