New film examines an historic, local legacy


The photographs, which were projected on a screen, clicked by one by one, illuminating and documenting Atlanta’s history during an era dominated by one of the city’s great political figures.

  • Maynard Jackson at his inauguration, when he became the first African-American mayor of Atlanta.
  • Jackson in Tokyo with Billy Payne during the city’s bid for the 1996 Olympics.
  • Jackson at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium on the night Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record.
  • Jackson at a press conference during the notorious Atlanta child murders as he offered reward money for clues to solve the crimes.
  • Jackson with Nelson Mandela. With Muhammad Ali. With Jimmy Carter.

The list could go on and on, as Jackson occupies a singularly significant place in Atlanta’s history.

When he was elected mayor, Maynard Jackson became the first African-American mayor not just of Atlanta, but of any major Southern city. He would serve two terms, and then come back after Andrew Young to serve one more.

The airport is named after him, and among his most significant achievements was growing opportunity for African-Americans in Atlanta.

According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, “As mayor, one of Jackson’s main priorities was to ensure that minority businesses received more municipal contracts, and he succeeded in raising the proportion from less than 1 percent to more than 35 percent. His crowning achievement as mayor was building the massive new terminal at Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport with significant minority participation, and in his own words, ‘ahead of schedule and under budget.’ ”

So what prompted spending this time clicking through historic pictures in a conference room at the AJC?

Well, first, it was interesting and informative. A group of the newspaper’s editors was joined by Jackson’s son, Maynard Jackson III, and daughter-in-law, Wendy Eley Jackson.

They are among the producers of a new documentary about the former Atlanta mayor, titled “Maynard.” As is obvious from that title, Jackson enjoys the notable status that permits use of just his first name.

We’d agreed to help them identify photographs from the AJC’s archives for use in the film. It also gave us the opportunity to review some Atlanta history, and get updated on how things are going with the film.

The documentary is in post-production stage, although there are still a few key people the filmmakers would like to interview, the Jacksons said. Those include former mayor Sam Massell and current Mayor Kasim Reed.

The film is being directed by Sam Pollard, an Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning director. He’s worked on “Slavery by Another Name” and “Eyes on the Prize.”

As Pollard told our Jennifer Brett: “This country had a revolutionary change when Barack Obama was elected president. In many ways, what happened to Maynard Jackson in this city in 1973 and ’74 was a precursor to what happened to Obama.”

The hope is that the movie can be entered in the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. And Georgia Public Broadcasting has committed to airing the film as part of its “Georgia Greats” series.

(You can find more information about the film at maynardmovie.com)

It won’t be easy to cram Jackson’s remarkable life and career into 90 minutes.

Just the story of his staged boxing match with Ali could take up half the time — even before you got to all of the serious stuff.

The most enjoyable part of our conversation was hearing Maynard III and Wendy, an award-winning film producer, talk about personal moments the film may reveal.

Wendy emphasized that much of the film will deal with Jackson’s political career, and his commitment to service of others. But it will also show some other sides of her father-in-law.

“There was a part of him that was lonely,” she said.

“I could see he bore the weight of the city,” said Maynard III. “He wanted to make changes.”

Both emphasized the film will depict difficult situations Jackson faced, both political and personal.

For example, he struggled with his weight.

“His health was put on hold,” said Wendy. “Everyone has a vice. His was food.”

She noted that he had six heart bypass surgeries before his fatal 2003 heart attack.

The film will also portray difficult political moments, including his relationship with Reginald Eaves, the city’s public safety commissioner who resigned in a scandal involving promotions.

Wendy also expects the film to examine the Atlanta child murders, which occurred from 1979 to 1981 and represent a dark period in the city’s history.

“It’s not going to be all peaches and cream,” Maynard III said of the film.

If all goes as planned, we’ll be presented with the honest history of Atlanta as one of its towering figures lived it.

Jackson’s leadership and tremendous record will no doubt impress those new to his story and remind longtime friends and fans of his substantial legacy.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Opinion

READERS WRITE: FEB. 20

Mental health stigma carries steep price I write this with tears of grief and frustration. Running a nonprofit counseling center over the past 10 years, I have been saddened to witness repeated events like Parkland, followed by anguished vows to “do more about mental health.” Why, then, did an effort to approve Medicare (and probably Medicaid)...
The left has news for the president: The indictment of 13 Russians shouldn’t make you comfortable
The left has news for the president: The indictment of 13 Russians shouldn’t make you comfortable

Robert Mueller’s indictments of more than a dozen Russians are a good thing, but it’s just a start. A roundup of editorials Monday takes a look at the issue. 1. As Robert Mueller Fights Russian Meddling, Trump Is MIA From USA Today: What’s missing in the news of indictments of Russians for meddling in U.S. elections is some leadership...
The right wants to know where the left was on gun control when they had the White House
The right wants to know where the left was on gun control when they had the White House

The right wants to know where the left was on gun control when they had the White House As Democrats condemn the right for doing nothing after mass shootings, Republicans ask why the left did not pass another assault weapons ban when they were in charge. A roundup of editorials Monday takes a look at the issue. 1. Democrats, Spare Me Your Hypocrisy...
READERS WRITE: FEB. 19

Writer wrong to protect only one viewpoint The writer of “More than one side of speech worth protecting” (Readers Write, Feb. 11) makes a good point about free speech protection and government’s imposition on it, and then he ruins his argument by making it about conservative speakers on college campuses who are shouted down by audience...
Opinion: Mass killers should be denied notoriety they crave

An orgy of mutual disgust now greets every mass shooting in America. Liberals despise conservatives who, they predict, will offer only insipid “thoughts and prayers” in the face of what they conceive to be preventable massacres. Conservatives scorn liberals who, they believe, will propose “feel-good” gun measures that would...
More Stories