Thegreat-grandson of slaves, Maynard Jackson, Jr. was born in Dallas, Texas, onMarch 23, 1938. His father, MaynardJackson, Sr., was a leading figure in the 1930s campaign for black votingrights in Dallas and a founder of Democratic Progressive Voter’s League in 1936. His mother, Irene Dobbs Jackson, was aprofessor of French at Spelman College who desegregated the Atlanta citylibrary system. His aunt MattiwildaDobbs was the first African American to sing at the La Scala Opera in Milan,Italy. When Maynard was seven years oldhis father, a clergyman, moved the family to Atlanta, Georgia, where he assumedpastorship of the Friendship Baptist Church.
After graduating from Morehouse College in 1956 with a BA degree in politicalscience, Jackson briefly attended law school at Boston University beforetransferring to North Carolina Central University Law School where he earned aJD degree cum laude in 1964. Married two times, he was the father of sevenchildren.
After work with the National Labor Relations Board and a neighborhood law office,30-year-old Jackson mounted an underfunded populist challenge to veteran Georgiasegregationist Senator Herman Talmadge in 1968. Despite the odds against him, and the conservative racial climate in thestate, he surprised many political observers by winning 200,000 votes, onethird of the total vote, and garnering the support of many white small farmers. He also ran well in Atlanta, reflecting thegrowing influence of African American voters.
In 1969 Jackson was elected vice mayor of Atlanta, serving under progressivewhite businessman Sam Massell, who was Atlanta’s first Jewish mayor. Upsetting expectations that he would serveseveral terms as vice mayor, he immediately challenged the incumbent. The race became acrimonious and racially charged,but on October 16, 1973, at the age of 35, Jackson won with 59% of the vote,becoming the first African American to be elected mayor of a major southerncity.
Jackson served three terms, first from January 1974 to January 1982, and later