Monday, June 30, 2003


The first time I met Maynard Jackson was through the pages of Ebony Magazine. As a young man growing up in the late seventies and the eighties, Ebony was my pipeline to the black world outside of my church and Jack & Jill. On the pages of Ebony I saw Maynard, big, light-skinned, straight hair, always impeccably attired and always smiling. He was important because he was a question in the Black History Quiz Bowl. "Who was the first black mayor of Atlanta?...Maynard Jackson!"

However, it wasn't until I was in the 12th grade, that I learned that Maynard was born in Dallas. His father had been the pastor of my church, New Hope Baptist Church, the oldest African witness in Dallas. Very old church members would regail me with stories about how a very young and precocious Maynard would crawl on the stage at church while his father was preaching. Later in my 12th grade year, I was practicing for the Jack & Jill Beautillion at none other than Maynard Jackson Elementary, a school named after his father, Maynard Sr. And in the lobby of that school was a big black and white picture of the dedication of the school, with Maynard Jr., once again impeccably attired, smiling.

Well, I went off to Howard University, and more and more, little by little we heard more about Maynard based on the fact that due to his leadership, Atlanta was granted the 1996 Olympics. Once again, images were everywhere of this well dressed, confident, assured man, smiling.

Eventually I left Howard and attended Maynard's alma mater, Morehouse College. And on an unseasonably cool October night, while in the bowels of Power Hall at Samuel Archer Hall at Morehouse, I came face to face with none other than the impeccably dressed, confident, assured, smiling man. He was there to make sure that students went out to vote not only for Bill Campbell in his re-election bid, but also he wanted to make sure that we voted for Roy Barnes who was running against the ultra conservative Guy Millner. Maynard was eloquent and sharp, smooth and yet to the point. After the meeting was over, a meeting that included several of his key lieutenants from his city hall days as well as Hank Aaron, I introduced myself, told him I was from Dallas, and we had a good conversation, laughed and he shook my hands with those behomothly soft hands he had. I was soaring.

I saw him a few more times after that, at major and minor Morehouse events. He was the true embodiement and true essence of what a Morehouse man is to me; dedicated, successful, warm, charitable, loving and a family man. He truly loved Morehouse, and one could tell by his actions, words and deeds when he was here and when he was not here. He never forgot where he came from, and no matter what, he made you feel like you were one of the closest people to him. I don't know how he did it, but he did it every time we met.

The outpouring of love and affection and more importantly appreciation that he has received is remarkable. I've never seen anything like it before. I worked as an usher at his Memorial service, and there were people from all walks of life there, just to say goodbye and thank you. I watched his funeral early Sunday morning on CSPAN, and wept because this hero of mine was gone. However I quickly thought how fortunate I was to have been able to live in a city that he transformed into an oasis of prosperity and good will. And how fortunate I was to attend an institution that he loved so dearly, thus inextricably linking us forever. You've never heard 'Dear Old Morehouse' until you've heard him sing it.

It is sad but true that we may never see another one like him, and the better we are all for it that he lived, and lived for us.


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