Herman Talmadge, scion of the state’s most powerful political machine. Talmadge won by a three-to-one margin, but the defeat did not dampen Jackson’s resolve.
Five years later, the 35-year-old defeated incumbent mayor Sam Massell to become the first black mayor of a major southern city. In 1977, he was re-elected to a second four-year term with 63% of the vote, more than three times the ballots cast for his rival. In 1989, after a seven-year-leave of absence from politics, he returned to city hall. Gaining 79% of the vote, Jackson became the first three-time winner of the office in 50 years.
In political circles, Jackson was considered “The Kingmaker,” responsible for the political ascent of a number of progressive candidates on a local and national level. All three of his successors — Andrew Young, Bill Campbell, and Franklin — gained the helm of Atlanta City Hall through his urging, counsel, and endorsement. And he played a major role in the making of Democratic presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.
Jackson’s three terms were marked by Herculean accomplishments and Sisyphean ordeals. When he came into power in 1974, he was the beneficiary of a charter change that transformed Atlanta municipal government from a weak aldermanic structure to a “strong mayor” system, giving the city’s chief executive budget authority and veto power. Politically pragmatic and unyieldingly principled, Jackson was not shy about wielding power. Says Thomas Burrell, CEO of Burrell Communications Group L.L.C., who knew the mayor for 30 years: “He was a populist and a capitalist.”
During the mid-1970s, the young mayor worked with William T. Coleman, secretary of transportation under Pr
esident Gerald Ford, to gain approval and funding for the expansion of Hartsfield Airport and the development of Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transportation (MARTA). Coleman, the second black presidential cabinet appointee in history, would laud Jackson’s efforts as the creation of the twin engines of Atlanta’s astounding growth over the next two decades.
His core component of municipal projects was minority business set-asides. In fact, Jackson’s plan proved so successful at the Atlanta airport, it prompted the Federal Aviation Administration to get minority contractors involved in other airport projects nationally. This Southern municipality has since produced three times more general contractors than any other U.S. city. “Using the clout of government contracts, he developed minority involvement that had never before existed and might not exist today,” says Leo F. Mullins, chairman and CEO of Delta Air Lines. “Maynard championed above all the fundamentally American idea that when you expanded economic opportunity to more people, the circle of prosperity expands.”
Bernard Beal, CEO of New York-based M.R. Beal & Co. (No. 5 on the BE INVESTMENT BANK list with $2.65 billion in senior/co-senior managed issues) says Jackson was firmly committed to including minorities not only in the construction and operation of the airport, but also in every bond financing that involved the city of Atlanta. He maintains: “In short, Jackson created a model which many mayors of cities big and small could and did replicate and some still use