Oakland Resident Spotlight: A Fitting Tribute to Mayor Maynard Jackson

by Valerie Richardson Jackson

Mayor Maynard Jackson’s new monument at Oakland Cemetery

On Friday, June 23, the 14th anniversary of his death, former Atlanta mayor Maynard Jackson’s permanent memorial was unveiled at Oakland Cemetery. Mayor Jackson’s widow Valerie Jackson unveiled the monument during a private family dedication.

The stunning 14.5-foot, 14 ton monument was almost three years in the making. Its African-sourced honed black granite sits on a platform of grey Georgia granite, reflecting the Jackson family’s Georgia heritage. The sub-foundation beneath the grey granite base is solid concrete with multiple layers of rebar, over three feet deep. Four hand-carved solid bronze discs, one on each facet of the crown molding, represent four important aspects of Jackson’s legacy:

  • The City of Atlanta: Maynard Jackson was second only to Mayor William Hartsfield in his longevity as mayor of Atlanta. After one term as vice-mayor he served three terms as mayor. He was the youngest and first African American mayor of a major southern city.
  • The Scales of Justice: This seal represents Jackson’s commitment to social and economic justice for everyone. Equal opportunity was mandated in all of his administrations. He has been called “The Martin Luther King of Affirmative Action.”
  • The Olympic Rings: The U.S. Olympic Committee considered it an honor to grace Maynard Jackson’s memorial with the Olympic Rings, recognizing his Olympic spirit and his role in bringing the 1996 Olympic Games to Atlanta.
  • The Atlanta Airport: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport has consistently been the busiest, most-traveled airport in the world. In 2003, following Jackson’s death, the airport’s domestic terminal was renamed Hartsfield-Jackson to commemorate Mayor Jackson’s contributions. He played an integral role not only in the airport’s construction, but its joint venture program that demanded the inclusion of minorities and women in airport contracts. Prior to Jackson’s first administration, fewer than half of 1 percent of municipal contracts went to minorities and women. It grew to 25 percent under Jackson’s leadership. In 2012 the airport’s new international terminal was also named in his honor.

The previous headstone at Mayor Jackson’s grave

The Jackson monument is surrounded by lush ivy that had spontaneously appeared around his original headstone. Historically, ivy has symbolized strength, endurance, and determination. One of Maynard Jackson’s strongest attributes was his determination. Engraved on one side of the monument is the first line of Jackson’s favorite poem, “Will,” by Ella Wheeler Wilcox. The poem speaks of a determined soul and it was only through his determination that the new airport was built. Maynard Jackson succeeded in moving I-85 to create the necessary land needed for the new domestic terminal.

“I don’t know about mountains, but he can definitely move highways!” said Valerie Jackson.

Mrs. Jackson designed the monument and her brother, Monte Richardson who is a visual artist and was a WXIA 11 Alive news photographer for over 28 years. Brook Bolton, president and CEO of Roberts-Shields Memorial Company, produced and supervised the monument’s installation.

Mrs. Jackson said the monument was not only a tribute to the man whose honor, courage and vision created a new Atlanta, but also her personal tribute to their love and devotion to each other for over a quarter of a century. Her ultimate goal was to build a fitting tribute to this exceptional man that would stand for centuries to come.