Interview with Maynard Jackson
QUESTION 8
JACKIE SHEARER:

So could you describe the war with the banks?

MAYNARD JACKSON:

We had, um, we had, um, a situation where, ah, in Atlanta we had a, a, about 600 million dollars of tax money being handled by the six downtown banks at that time. These are banks that from a civic point of view, um, always show a great responsiveness and responsibility. They love Atlanta. Their leaders are the quintessential civic leaders, ah, of Atlanta. And in Atlanta, by the way, if you want to move to power, you're a newcomer and want to move to power, you must come in and pay your civic dues. We're not talking about a, a bunch of folks who didn't care about the city. These are people who loved Atlanta, but they had no background in what to do about, um, moving toward affirmative action and equal opportunity. You know, I'm saying that a lot now, because, ah, I've got a plan for the future that's going to include, ah, working very closely as partners with the power structure, to achieve more things, with an understanding now, that, that the, the common ground of discussion was not there before. We were talking from different, ah, perspectives, and um, the, the banks, um, were handling all of this. There was not a single Black vice-president, or above, in any of the six downtown banks at that time. Now, we're talking about approximately 1975, '76 thereabout. And I was there from '74 to '82, so that was in the early part of, or mid--mid-part of my first term. And, ah, of course, nobody Black on the boards of these downtown banks, at that time. So, I went to them, I went and visited every CEO in his office. And invited them to meet with me, and they all did, from time to time. I even made the mistake of inviting them all at one time, at a meeting, I mean, this, nothing was said at that meeting. I forgot they were competitors. And they didn't want to say very much in front of each other. But, my point is for 18 months, never held a press conference, and never attacked the banks. And, um, zero was accomplished. I don't mean almost zero. I mean, zero. For just the position of VP--


JACKIE SHEARER:

OK, let's begin.

MAYNARD JACKSON:

Well, what I mean when I say zero was accomplished is, that, you take the VP position, vice president position in a bank, that's really not a, a high position, that's kind of middle management. There must have been maybe a hundred, 120 VP's among all the downtown banks at that time. And not one person was Afro-American and so forth. So, um, I decided we had to do something. I had done the best I could and that was not a response there. So I gave a 30-day notice, ah, that the banks that did not comply were going to lose the accounts, the city accounts. Because we're talking about tax dollars, 600 million dollars in tax money. And on day 29, or thereabout, one of the downtown banks, the smallest of the downtown banks, came in and said they wanted to work things out, as I mentioned, that was First Georgia Bank. And, um, on day 31, we moved, ah, the smallest account we could find from uncooperative bank A, it was a 500 million dollar--a 500 thousand dollar account, just a half million dollar account, moved that into First Georgia Bank, and I think, ah, the message was heard. Now I want to make this very clear. It's never been my desire to have to do things that way. In fact, if anything, I would have liked to have done them anyway other than that way. But, when you try to do things through negotiation and through paths of least resistance, when they're non-confrontational and they don't and you have been elected to use the power that you have, if you don't use the power, you're violating your promises. I would be doing Atlanta a disservice to let things linger and continue as they had been. My obligation as the transition mayor was to move us from status quo into a better way and a better day. If in the process, I took a lot of, um, heat, and I mean real heat, I have the scars to show you, you know, blood is still on the rug in the mayor's office, right? Um, that's the job. It goes with the territory. And any mayor who's not prepared to pay that price, ought not to be in that job.