On the set of “Maynard,” a film about Atlanta’s first black mayor

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Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson "knocked out" Muhammad Ali in 1975, with then Georgia state Sen. Julian Bond officiating. AJC archives photo/Billy Downs

In a vintage photo from this newspaper’s archives, the late Maynard Jackson strikes a pose that is at once victorious and self-effacing. It was taken in 1975, the year of the famous “Thrilla in Manila” bout between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, and presumably was staged as a publicity lark.

Although Ali would prevail against Smokin’ Joe in the Philippine Coliseum, he lost the “match” against Jackson. In the photo, the late Julian Bond, then a Georgia state senator who would go on to serve as chairman of the NAACP, holds Jackson’s glove aloft in triumph.

Want to know a funny story about that day? As the photo opportunity neared, Jackson’s staff was tasked with finding him a pair of boxing trunks, but the sturdily built public servant wouldn’t reveal his size.

“They had to guess,” former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin said, musing over the humorous anecdote.

She is among the many prominent figures lending their insights and recollections to “Maynard,” a documentary in the works about Atlanta’s first African-American mayor.

Oscar nominated, Emmy-winning director, editor and producer Sam Pollard, whose work includes “Slavery By Another Name,” “Eyes on the Prize,” “25th Hour,” “4 Little Girls,” “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts” and “Clockers,” recently filmed a batch of interviews and talked with us in between takes on the set.

“I’m old enough to remember when he first became mayor,” Pollard said. “It was like an astounding thing to see a Southern city elect a black mayor.”

Maynard Jackson takes the oath of office on Jan. 7, 1974. AJC archives photo/Charles Pugh

Maynard Jackson takes the oath of office on Jan. 7, 1974. AJC archives photo/Charles Pugh

Post-production editing starts this spring, and with luck, it’ll be a candidate for the 2018 Sundance Film Festival.

“He was a mayor of the people. He had the common touch,” Pollard said. “He didn’t forget where he came from.”

Jackson’s impact reaches far beyond Atlanta, he noted.

“This country had a revolutionary change when Barack Obama was elected president. In many ways what happened to Maynard Jackson in this city in 1973 and ’74 was a precursor to what happened to Obama,” Pollard said.

Jackson was elected in 1973 and in 1974 became the first black mayor not only of our town but of any major Southern city. He served eight years and then returned for a third term in 1990, after Andrew Young’s time in the position. Jackson played a vital role in bringing the 1996 Olympic Games to Atlanta. His key legacy, of course, is the Maynard H. Jackson Jr. International Terminal at what is now officially called Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Franklin described their working relationship over the years and called him a mentor.

“He loved very deeply and was very passionate about his work,” she said. “Maynard’s advice to me when I was running was that I needed a ‘kitchen’ cabinet, not just a city cabinet. He always felt that you needed to have outside advice and counsel. For him, that was people from all walks of life.”

Director Sam Pollard interviews former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin for the documentary about the late Maynard Jackson. Photo: Maynard Jackson III

Director Sam Pollard interviews former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin for the documentary about the late Maynard Jackson. Photo: Maynard Jackson III

The movie’s production team is accepting donations to assist with the completion of the project. Checks should be made out to Change the Game Inc. and mailed to P.O. Box 110090, Atlanta, 30311. The team also invites people to share their stories about Jackson and photos taken with him. Those items may be mailed to Auburn Avenue Films, Inc. at the same address. Or, connect via email at info@auburnavenuefilms.org.

For more information and to view a trailer of the movie, see maynardmovie.com.


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