Atlanta’s new missing, murdered children’s memorial: ‘Never forget these souls’
By David Pendered
An eternal flame memorial dedicated to Atlanta’s missing and murdered children is to be installed on the grounds of Atlanta City Hall. The names of 30 missing children are to be inscribed as “a testament that those lives mattered.”
The Atlanta City Council approved Monday the Atlanta Missing Children’s Eternal Flame Memorial. California-based Gordon Huether+Parnters, Inc. received a contract for up to $280,000 to install the memorial on the northeast corner of the Atlanta City Hall property.
The memorial is to include two curved walls made of Corten steel. Thirty stainless steel name plates will be attached to one wall, with space beneath each to leave a token the size of a candle or teddy bear. The flame will be attached at the end of the wall with the names. A seating area is to be small enough for intimate reflection and open to an area large enough to facilitate gathering, according to the artist’s proposal.
Dates of the installation do not appear to be addressed in the legislation approved by the council.
The memorial will culminate the city’s latest effort to come to grips with the serial deaths of young Black men from 1979 to 1981. Wayne Williams was convicted of two murders – Nathaniel Cater and Jimmy Ray Payne – and was a suspect in 23 of at least 30 other slayings. Williams remains in prison.
Meanwhile, Fulton County’s newly inaugurated district attorney, Fani Willis, has retained the Conviction Integrity Unit established by her predecessor partly for the purpose of investigating the Williams case. Aimee Maxwell continues to head the unit that’s she’s led since 2019, following her service as founding director of the Georgia Innocence Project.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Botoms initiated the memorial effort in 2019 to recognize the lives lost during one of the city’s worst periods. The Atlanta Children’s Memorial Taskforce was charged with devising a recognition of the loss incurred by the families and friends of those lost, and of the city and beyond. Bottoms said in a statement at the time:
- “It is important for Atlanta to acknowledge the innocent lives lost during one of our City’s darkest hours. This taskforce will determine a lasting and appropriate tribute for the victims and their families, and serve as a testament that those lives mattered. That African American lives matter.”
Gordon Huether+Partners is known for installations for private corporations and public buildings. Huether has received commissions to produce more than 70 public art pieces and more than 175 private commissions, according to the bio on his website.
The firm’s most recent major work opened last autumn at Salt Lake City International Airport. The keynote installation there is a two-walled structure that resembles the approach Huether is taking with the Atlanta memorial. In addition to designing his own installations, Huether is serving as Consulting Artist for the airport’s $4.1 billion expansion.
This is how Huether described the Atlanta project:
- “The story of the parents and community of Atlanta is of unimaginable pain and grief, and it is so important that the stories of those 30 young lives, cut short and much too soon, are told in a thoughtful and sensitive manner….
- “The goal of this project is to create a space that expresses love, remembrance and honor. Every one of the victims’ lives mattered, and my memorial proposal is a testament to this community’s commitment to never forget this tragedy, and to never forget these souls.”