It’s Too Late When We Die, To Admit We Don’t see Eye to Eye

Blacks pushed to rename the airport in honor of Maynard Jackson alone in 2003

While flipping through White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism (Politics and Society in Twentieth-Century America) by Kevin M. Kruse, I came upon this passage on p. 235:

As Atlanta’s black militants rejected the white power structure, the establishment responded in kind. The dramatic shift in white moderate’s attitude found countless avenues of expression, but the most telling change occurred in former Mayor [William] Hartsfield. The old politician had long bragged about his pivotal role in the election of President John F. Kennedy, but by the decade’s end he was commiserating with conservative Vice President Spiro Agnew about the “phony liberals and so-called intellectuals,” whom Hartsfield claimed were “far more bigoted and intolerant than the old southern racist whom I used to denounce.” Indeed, by the end of the 1960s, the mayor who had regularly bragged about the “city too busy to hate” found plenty of time to complain about civil rights activists and other liberals in his midst.

“We have spent billions in welfare and in coddling racial agitators, only to see the blackened ruins of our principal cities,” he groused in 1968. “Not a very pretty picture, but I sincerely hope that a wave of conservatism will sweep over the country before it is too late.” 

Why is this important? Mayor Hartsfield was the man who promised Atlanta would never see anything like what happened in Little Rock (when the federal government sent troops to integrate a high school in 1957); it could be said he was the man who truly paved the way for the handing over of power to black people in Atlanta, though he was merely a proxy for long-time Coca-Cola President Robert Woodruff, about whom he bragged, “I never made a major decision, that I didn’t consult Bob Woodruff.”

Woodruff was for “gradual integration” believing that any opposition to the eventual black-takeover of Atlanta would be bad for the international image of Coca-Cola.

Hartsfield would die in 1971 — the “blackened ruins” of major American cities continues unabated.

Despite all he did for Atlanta and for paving the way for the ushering in of an era of uninterrupted black rule in the city, a huge battle erupted in 2003 over renaming the international airport outside the city that bore his name: instead, black people wanted it renamed in honor of only Maynard Jackson — the man who held the enlarging of the airport hostage until 30 percent of all building contracts would be guaranteed for blacks [Rename airport, panel is urged, Atlanta Journal Constitution, 7-30-2003):

William Hartsfield: All he did to help blacks amounted to… nothing

Maynard Jackson, Atlanta’s first black mayor, cast a huge shadow Tuesday over his white predecessors as the campaign to rename Atlanta’s airport developed into raw racial politics.

“This really shouldn’t be about what the white business establishment would allow,” said state Rep. “Able” Mable Thomas, a former Atlanta City Council member. “It’s really what the strength of the African-American community will allow. What will we stand for? The real deal is we stood too long silent. Atlanta is being gentrified every day. So, while you do still have a majority, as Maynard would say, use the power you have today.”

Some of the speakers during a two-hour public hearing at Atlanta City Hall used words like diversity and inclusiveness. But many refused to sugarcoat their sentiments.

Overwhelmingly, they said to remove the name of William B. Hartsfield and replace it with Jackson, creator of a landmark affirmative action program. Hartsfield, who served as mayor for two decades and championed Atlanta as an aviation center, was either forgotten or dismissed as a symbol of Atlanta’s racist past.

Barry Ringold of Atlanta cut straight to the heart and urged the city’s black mayor and majority-black council not to be afraid of representing black Atlanta.

“Do the right thing,” Ringold said. “Stand up for the people that put you there.”
Ivan Allen Jr., who spent eight years guiding Atlanta through the civil rights era, rated only passing mention during the first public hearing by the Atlanta Advisory Commission. The 17-member panel is charged with finding an appropriate way to honor Jackson and Allen, who both recently died. Another session is scheduled for Aug. 26.

The session drew an overwhelmingly black audience of about 75 people, including City Council members, state representatives and Jackson’s widow, Valerie, and children who sat front and center. They didn’t speak to the commission but applauded many of the speakers. About a third of the audience spoke.

Afterward Jackson said she was gratified to see that her husband had touched so many lives. She supports replacing Hartsfield’s name at the airport.

“I thought this was a no-brainer,” said John Evans. “People try to satisfy everybody. It can’t happen. The City Council ought to stand tall and rename the airport Maynard Jackson International Airport.”

Several speakers told the 17-member panel to disband and urged the City Council to act unilaterally and rename the airport to honor Jackson.

The session was an eye-opener for the advisory committee members who got a taste of Atlanta’s racial politics and what’s in store for them over the next few weeks as they head to making a recommendation in September.

A.D. “Pete” Correll, CEO of Georgia-Pacific, is co-chairing the panel.
“Nobody said this would be easy,” Correll said, “but nobody said it would be this hard either.”

Carey Duncan of Grant Park urged the combination name Hartsfield-Jackson.
“I urge you don’t play the race card,” Duncan said. “We are one race, the human race.”

 Eventually, blacks in Atlanta (and on the city council) would relent and compromise: the airport would be Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

No matter what we do in this world to help black people achieve success – cutting off our own nose in the process – well, it will be entirely forgotten.

William Hartsfield’s life and legacy is proof of this.

Through all that he done to help uplift black Atlanta… at the end of his life, he understood the folly of his actions. Worse, he knew what he had unleashed.

On 12-12-12, my tiny contribution to a battle which — as of yet — has no name will be unleashed.

Black Mecca Down: Atlanta — The Fall of the City too Busy to Hate will be released then. It was William Hartsfield himself who coined this moniker for Atlanta — the City too busy to Hate. Fitting, knowing how he felt at the end of his life.

And yet it was the same people he helped hand over the city to that tried to brush his legacy aside (a mere 32 years after his death) and rename the world’s busiest airport for the honor of one of their own instead.

There’s a song that I’m reminded of when I think of what the life, death, and legacy of William Hartsfield signifies. By Mike and the Mechanics, The Living Years tells us:

Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
It’s too late when we die
To admit we don’t see eye to eye

White people owe black people… nothing. We sacrifice our future while we live in a present dominated by the belief that a “welfare state” has destroyed black America. How much longer must we tolerate a society where black criminality drives down property values and makes increasingly large portions of major metropolitan cities uninhabitable?

To paraphrase Hartsfield: “We have spent quadrillions in welfare, set-asides, lawsuits and wasted opportunity costs… all in coddling racial agitators, only to see the blackened ruins of our principal cities.”

Do we have the constitution to tell them to, “fuck off?”



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