Ivan Allen Jr. Biography: Post-Mayoral Influence

Mayor Maynard Jackson with Supporters with Portrait of Mayor Allen in the Background

Allen played a role in the campaign for his successor. In opposition to his vice-mayor, Sam Massell, Allen backed the candidate of the white business community, Rodney Cook. Massell with strong black support won the election and became Atlanta’s first Jewish mayor. His election was a blow to the traditional governing white business elite as well as the black-white coalition that had influenced politics for many years. Maynard Jackson became the city's first black vice-mayor in this election.

The 1969 election changed Atlanta politics. The black electorate’s growing power was clearly visible as was the white elite’s diminishing political control. This election led the way for Maynard Jackson’s victory four years later when he defeated Massell in a racially charged campaign.

Jackson, Atlanta’s first black mayor, took office in 1974, and this event shook the white business community who feared a complete loss of their influence. Jackson wanted to move blacks fully into an equal place in Atlanta’s power structure. The white business elite resisted and threatened to leave downtown, abandoning the city. Jackson was inaccurately accused of being anti-white and anti-business. Allen, once again taking a controversial leadership role, met with a large number of business executives and Mayor Jackson in 1974 and spoke courageously and forcefully about the concerns. “Some of us have gotten too concerned with wanting the city government to fail because it’s black.” Warning that "black and white racism threatens to kill off Atlanta unless there is more cooperation among local business and government leaders," he called for racial harmony. Allen was an important factor in starting to bring the two sides together in order to continue his efforts at better race relations and city growth.

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