Remembering Maynard Jackson

Blogging While Blue Contributor Howard Franklin


Like so many others in Atlanta, Maynard Jackson gave me my start in politics.

Before I knew how important a figure he was, how much he had accomplished in business and politics, or how privileged I was to call him my employer, my mentor and my friend, he had made plans for us.

In 2002, he launched the American Voters League, the first organization to sell voting “the way Coca-Cola sells soda and Cadillac sells cars”.

His approach to youth voter engagement was truly innovative, and at 23, I was incredibly fortunate to be along for the ride as the organization’s CEO.

Anyone remotely acquainted with the story of Maynard Holbrook Jackson knows this wasn’t his first attempt at pushing the envelope.

He had done so – very successfully – many times before, from becoming the nation’s first African-American mayor of a major southern city to insisting on minority participation in lucrative government contracts.

And here he was again, pushing the political establishment to end its effective boycott of minority youth voters while extending an olive branch to the next generation of leaders.

The shove he gave the proverbial envelope with American Voters League would be his last. A heart attack spirited him away during a trip to Washington DC, where we were slated to meet with the president of the AFL-CIO.

I still remember the frantic 8 a.m. call from his executive assistant, urging me to abandon our meeting plans and rush over to the hospital.

Better still, I remember the encouraging words he offered, the praise heaped upon our shared mission, and the lessons taught from the driver’s seat of his Cadillac and the twenty-second floor of his office building.

Maynard’s passion for political involvement remains a driving force in the lives of so many. If there’s anyone I’d like to make proud, in this world or the next, it’s him.

-Howard Franklin, former CEO of the American Voters League