When former Ambassador Andrew Young turned 80, the late Congressman John Lewis spoke of his contributions to the City of Atlanta and the world. “He has been a voice for what is right, fair, and just. Young helped make America and the world a better place.” Ten years later, Atlanta is poised to honor the life and work of Ambassador Andrew J. Young as he turns 90 on March 12.
Young began his life as a preacher, attending Hartford Seminary in 1955, after graduating from Howard University in 1951. His first pastoral assignment was in the City of Marion, in Alabama. There, Young became involved in community efforts to register Blacks to vote.
In the 1960s, Young moved to Atlanta to join the Southern Leadership Christian Conference (SCLC). Young would join its leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., becoming a trusted advisor and strategist in the civil rights movement and a close friend.
The memories are as vivid today as they were when Young mourned his slain friend on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in 1968. Young would write that King was in a “jovial mood,” even engaging Ralph Abernathy and me in a pillow fight on that fateful evening.
“I heard a sound like a car backfiring and saw that King was no longer standing on the hotel balcony. My first thought was that King was still clowning around.” Devastated by the assassination, Young would say, “It seemed unfair that he was free from innumerable problems, while we, the living, were left to try to cope without him. We had been just getting by with him; how could we get along without him?”
Young would go on to become the first African American elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Georgia; and the first African American appointed as Ambassador to the United Nations by former President and fellow southerner, Jimmy Carter.
He would return to the South, serving as the Mayor of Atlanta for two terms. It might surprise many to find out that despite Young’s deep Atlanta roots, he was born and raised in New Orleans, LA.
Young would also play a pivotal role in bringing the 1996 Summer Olympic Games to Atlanta. Of the Olympics, Young would say that the games were an “announcement to the world that Atlanta was a world-class city that you have never heard of … in the words of journalist Henry Grady, Atlanta is a brave and beautiful city.”
A man, who many call an “American Treasure,” is turning 90, and the Andrew J. Young Foundation is planning four days (March 9-12) of celebrations. Selecting “Peace and Reconciliation” as its theme, Ambassador Young would say, “There has never been a time when our world needed to embrace peace and reconciliation more than today.”
The celebration kicks off on Wednesday, March 9 with 90 minutes of Global Prayer for the World at the Congregational Church in Atlanta. Young will bring a special live message of peace that will be streamed around the world.
On Thursday, March 10, a 90-minute Walk for Peace and Reconciliation will begin at Centennial Olympic Park and conclude at the Rodney Cook, Sr. Peace Park in Vine City. On March Friday, 11, “The Many Lives of Andrew Young” exhibit will open at the Millennium Gate Museum in Atlantic Station accompanied by the unveiling of a coffee table book written by Ernie Suggs.
Dr. Shinn Dae-yong will receive the Millennium Candler Peace and Justice Prize. The celebration concludes with a 90th birthday gala at The World Congress Center.
For additional information, visit www.andrewyoung90.com.