Atlanta, GA

The Andrew Young Phenomenon: The Mayor Who Shaped Atlanta's Future

Jodian Marie
Andrew Young, Democratic Congressman of Georgia/Washington DC, USA,Photo byCirca/GHI/Universal History Archive/ Getty Images

Andrew Jackson Young Jr., now 91 years of age, is an American politician, diplomat, and civil rights leader who served as the mayor of Atlanta, Georgia, from 1981–1989. Born on March 12, 1932, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Mayor Young graduated from Howard University in Washington, D.C., when he was only 19 and then started his career as a pastor. He then became involved in the Civil Rights Movement during the 1950s and 1960s, serving as executive director of the Southern Christian leadership conference while working alongside his close friend and confidant, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Young has always demonstrated prominent advocacy for social and economic justice, racial equality, and human rights throughout his career. And his background and experience in civil rights activism and international affairs further shaped his approach to governance. He emphasized international connections and sought to position Atlanta as a global city. Young's diplomatic skills and relationships with foreign leaders helped foster international investment and trade partnerships for Atlanta.

Mayor of Atlanta
Former Mayor of Atlanta, Andrew J. Young Jr.Photo byBettmann/CORBIS/Academy of Achievements

Andrew Young played a significant role in organizing protests and voter registration drives for the city in his early political career and was later elected as the Mayor of Atlanta in 1981, becoming the city's first African-American mayor. He served two terms, from 1982 to 1990, as mayor of our city, where he primarily focused on improving the city's economy, attracting investment, and promoting Atlanta's image as an international city.

In pursuit of policies aimed at the economic development and revitalization of Atlanta, he played a crucial role in securing the 1996 Summer Olympics for the city, which had a significant impact on Atlanta's infrastructure, economy, and the international reputation we bear today.

Character traits that made him a good leader:

​​His Approachable Nature: Many people who worked closely with Andrew Young recall his approachable and down-to-earth nature. Despite holding significant positions of power, Young was known for his ability to connect with people from all walks of life. He often took the time to listen to the concerns and ideas of individuals, whether they were staff members, community leaders, or ordinary citizens.

Bridge Builder and Diplomat: Young was admired for his diplomatic skills and ability to foster dialogue and understanding. He had a talent for bringing diverse groups together and finding common ground. Whether it was negotiating with business leaders, civil rights activists, or foreign dignitaries, Young had a knack for building bridges and finding solutions.

A Sense of Humor: Those who worked closely with Young often recall his sense of humor and ability to diffuse tense situations with a well-timed joke or light-hearted remark. His wit and charm helped create a positive and relaxed atmosphere, making it easier for individuals to collaborate and work towards common goals.

Key Facts about Andrew Young

  • Young came to Atlanta in 1961 to work with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) after serving as a pastor in Thomasville and leading voter registration drives.
  • Brought in $70 billion of new private investment to Atlanta
  • He was instrumental in the building of modern-day Atlanta, overseeing the development of Hartsfield International Airport, the Atlanta highway system, and the Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA)
  • Helped to renovate the Atlanta Zoo, which was renamed Zoo Atlanta
  • He was a trusted aide and friend to SCLC President Martin Luther King Jr. and eventually served as executive director of his organization. He was also one of the last men to see MLK's face before closing his casket.
  • Helped draft the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
  • Faced down the Ku Klux Klan to organize a voter registration drive in South Georgia.
  • Won election to the U.S. House of Representatives from Georgia's Fifth District in 1972, becoming the first African American from Georgia elected to Congress since Reconstruction
  • Twice reelected and in 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed him ambassador to the United Nations
  • Re-elected in 1985 with nearly 85 percent of the vote.
  • As co-chair of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, Young helped develop a bid for the 1996 Summer Olympics, which were held in Atlanta
  • Appointed by President Bill Clinton to oversee the $100 million Southern Africa Enterprise Development Fund in 1994
  • Young has also been involved in numerous other organizations and initiatives, including the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University

Quotes From former Mayor of Atlanta Andrew Young

"We may have come here on different ships, but we're all in the same boat now."

"Courage is the most important attribute of a leader."

"You cannot be afraid to speak up and speak out for what you believe. You have to have courage, raw courage."

"You don't have to be a genius, a visionary, or even a college graduate to be successful. You just need a framework and a dream."

"There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come."

"Every person has dignity and worth. Every person deserves an equal share of the blessings of this nation."

"In order to make democracy work, we must be a nation of participants, not simply observers."
Ambassador Andrew Young and wife Carolyn Young (left) pose on the red carpet (age 85)Photo byHYOSUB SHIN/Academy of Achievement

Following his tenure as mayor, Andrew Young continued to be actively involved in politics, diplomacy, and civil rights activism. He served as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations from 1977 to 1979 under President Jimmy Carter.

Andrew Young's tenure as the Mayor of Atlanta marked an important milestone in the city's history, with his leadership contributing to the city's growth, economic development, and international recognition. His legacy extends beyond his mayoral role, as he remains a respected figure in civil rights activism and diplomacy.

In honor of Andrew Young, a husband and father, a civil rights leader, U.S. congressman, ambassador to the United Nations, and former mayor of Atlanta. A phenomenal man who was instrumental in the development of our modern-day Atlanta.

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Biomolecular Medical Physicist, Asc, BSc, MS (Pending MD/Ph.D.) Writer/Data Analyst/Experimental MicrobiologyTechnologist

Atlanta, GA

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