- The Washington Times - Monday, June 23, 2003

ATLANTA (AP) — Maynard Jackson Jr., who took on Atlanta’s establishment as the city’s first black mayor and later helped plan for its role as host of the 1996 Summer Olympics, died yesterday after collapsing at an airport in Washington. He was 65.

Mr. Jackson was resuscitated at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport but relapsed into cardiac arrest in the ambulance and died at the Virginia Hospital Center in nearby Arlington, Mr. Jackson’s physician, Dr. Winston Gandy, said at a news conference in Atlanta.

Mr. Jackson, who suffered from diabetes, had major heart surgery in 1992 after doctors found six arterial blockages.

He was 35 when he was elected in 1973 as Atlanta’s first black mayor.

With a booming voice and a wide girth, he made his presence known immediately by taking on the predominantly white business leadership and demanding that doors be opened to blacks.

Mr. Jackson later acknowledged that he had mishandled relationships with some business leaders. “This may sound naive … but it never dawned on me that the question of the personal relationship was that important,” he said.

He was re-elected to a second term in 1977 but continued to have a stormy relationship with the business community. Mr. Jackson also had to lead the city through one of its darkest periods: the string of slayings of young blacks from 1979 to 1981.

Nonetheless, when he left office after two terms, barred from seeking a third consecutive term, he could boast of many accomplishments, including the expansion of the Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport and the opening of the city’s rapid-rail system.

Former Mayor Andrew Young credited Mr. Jackson for much of the city’s growth.

“Without that airport and without the airport being built under a concept of affirmative action that included every one of our citizens, the growth that we’ve enjoyed across the board just wouldn’t be there,” Mr. Young told WSB-TV in a telephone interview from Africa.

After leaving office, Mr. Jackson pursued a career as a bond attorney for eight years, during which time Mr. Young, a rights activist and former ambassador to the United Nations, served as mayor.

Mr. Jackson returned in 1989 to seek a third term as mayor. He was elected with 80 percent of the vote and took office several months before the 1990 announcement that Atlanta had been chosen as host of the 1996 Summer Olympics.

“It is fitting and proper that Atlanta, not perfect but the best city in America, was chosen to host the Olympic Games,” he said at the time.

In 1993, Mr. Jackson announced he would not seek a fourth term, “for necessary, unavoidable and compelling personal reasons and duties.”

Born in Dallas, Mr. Jackson grew up in Atlanta and graduated from Morehouse College at age 18. He earned a law degree from North Carolina Central University.

Mr. Jackson’s family was active in early voting rights efforts. His grandfather John Wesley Dobbs was co-chairman of the Atlanta Negro Voters League, and his father, the Rev. Maynard H. Jackson Sr., founded the Georgia Voters League.

Mr. Jackson lost to Sen. Herman Talmadge in the Democratic Senate primary in 1968, but the next year, he was elected vice mayor and president of Atlanta’s Board of Aldermen.

Mr. Jackson’s third term was marred by a scandal at the airport, when Aviation Commissioner Ira Jackson — a Jackson appointee, but no relation — was accused of accepting bribes from airport businesses. Ira Jackson resigned and was convicted.

In 2001, the former mayor made a bid for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee, but he withdrew from the race against Terry McAuliffe. He was then named chairman of the Democratic National Committee’s Voting Rights Institute and was heavily involved in the struggle for election reform.

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