Former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young stays one step ahead of the devil

By Maria Saporta
Friday, April 16, 2010

He’s everywhere. Former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young is as busy as he’s been in years.

Just consider a sampling of what he’s been doing this month:

On Wednesday, April 7, he served on a panel discussion at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta with John Hope Bryant, an author who is founder of Operation Hope.

On Thursday, April 8, Young was honored by the Foundation of Wesley Woods at its Heroes, Saints & Legends awards dinner.

Then on Monday, April 12, Young participated on a civil rights panel during the Rotary Club of Atlanta’s weekly luncheon along with his friend Charlie Loudermilk, founder of Aaron’s Inc.

“All my life, I’ve been one step ahead of the devil, and if I slow down, she might catch me,” Young said in an interview about his busy schedule.

On Friday, April 16, his documentary — “Crossing in St. Augustine” — will premiere at the Atlanta Film Festival. The film focuses on a little-known racial confrontation that occurred in June 1964 just before the passage of the Civil Rights Act. It is particularly memorable for Young, who was beaten on that day.

After the showing of the movie, Young will be part of a panel discussion with three leaders in the Civil Rights Movement and whose stories are documented in the film — the Rev. Willie Bolden, J.T. Johnson and Al Lingo. The current mayor of St. Augustine, Fla., Joe Boles, also will fly in to participate on the panel.

It doesn’t stop there for the civil rights leader who recently celebrated his 78th birthday.

Young will be releasing his latest book on May 11, a memoir that he co-wrote with his godson, Kabir Sehgal.

The book — “Walk in My Shoes: Conversations Between a Civil Rights Legend and his Godson on the Journey Ahead” — recounts interviews and conversations that Young had with Sehgal, who did his first interview with Young when he was in second grade in the early 1980s.

Sehgal’s father is R.K. Sehgal, one of Young’s closest friends, who hired the former mayor to work at his company, Law Engineering, upon Young’s leaving City Hall. Young, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said he developed a special association with Kabir.

“Whenever he had an argument with his mother or dad and wanted an independent opinion, he would call me and we would talk,” said Young, who added that the younger Sehgal soon asked if he could start recording their conversations.

“He had the recordings and he transcribed them,” Young said. “I went through them, edited them and corrected some stuff.”

The result is the book: “Walk in My Shoes,” which is being published by Palgrave Macmillan and includes a forward by former President Bill Clinton.

This will be Sehgal’s second book. He also wrote “Jazzocracy Jazz: Democracy and the Creation of a New American Mythology,” which was featured on National Public Radio.

Young said he is driven to participate in as many forums as possible to share his knowledge on a range of topics, including history, Atlanta, civil rights and the global economy.

“There are literally things that we have taken for granted,” Young said.

Then he talked about how MARTA was able to become a reality because of the shared vision and leadership of former Atlanta Mayor Sam Massell, who is Jewish; African-American businessman Jesse Hill, who is Protestant; and the late Manuel Maloof, a Lebanese bar owner.

Young’s daughter, Andrea Young, often is seen with her father at various events to support his work.

“There’s so much that he knows,” she said. “We have got to get it documented because people know so little about Atlanta. It’s important for people to know how he sees Atlanta, from [the late Mayor Bill] Hartsfield, to the Olympics, and the decisions that no other city made.”

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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