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Sean Keenan Atlanta Civic Circle Housing Affordability

A veteran of war and affordable housing advocacy, AH commissioner James Allen dies at 89

Sean Keenan
AH commissioner James Allen speaks during an agency event. (Credit: Atlanta Housing)

By Sean Keenan

A passionate advocate for affordable housing and a pillar of the city’s Westside communities, Atlanta Housing commissioner James Allen passed away Tuesday night at 89 years old, AH officials said during Wednesday’s board meeting.

Allen, a decorated U.S. Army veteran who fought in the Korean War, was a former AH employee of nearly three decades and served on the public housing agency’s board for about 10 years.

He had turned 89 on June 16.

Allen lived in AH housing, beginning in the 1990s, and was elected vice president of the Hightower Manor Resident Association in 1994. “He advocated for his fellow residents with compassion, dedication and vigor,” an AH bio says.

“It is believed that Mr. Allen is the only person in Atlanta Housing’s history to have retired from the agency, resided in an AH community and served on the board of commissioners,” according to AH officials.

Allen’s accomplishments include ushering the construction of the Adamsville Recreation Center, which was later renamed for his longtime friend and late Atlanta City Councilmember C.T. Martin, and leading the allocation of a $30 million grant from the Obama administration to revitalize the historic Westside neighborhoods of Ashview Heights, the Atlanta University Center and Vine City.

Wednesday’s meeting, which was expected to host discussions on AH’s budget for Fiscal Year 2021, adjourned early in honor of Allen, board chairman Christopher Edwards announced after commissioners paid tribute to their late colleague.

“James Allen had a heart for this community, and a heart for people,” Edwards said during the afternoon meeting. “And while we’re living in this time, that’s the kind of person we need. He never lost focus on helping someone else.”

Edwards continued: “We have lost a giant among us, and I pray that others will see his example and step into the mold of Commissioner James Allen.”

Allen is survived by his three children Terry, Sheila and Michael, as well as six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is expected to appoint Allen’s replacement, who is likely to be an AH resident.

(Header image, via Atlanta Housing: AH commissioner James Allen speaks during an agency event.)

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