Watching the Stories of Atlanta, one might be tempted to think that Atlanta’s history unfolded in a smooth, orderly fashion…one event after another in a precise and predictable manner, much like the hands on a clock. One should resist that temptation. The history of Atlanta was marked by challenges, setbacks, unexpected results and, as with any major endeavor, a fair share of under the table wheeling and dealing. To quote Danny DeVito’s LA Confidential character Sid Hudgens, “Off the record, on the QT and very hush-hush.”

In fact, the drama that unfolded as Atlanta made the transition from a lawless, back-woods railroad town to the bona fide capital of the New South and next great American city is indeed worthy of a James Ellroy novel. The City of Atlanta’s coming-out party is a story filled with shady characters, opportunistic politicians and less-than-legal actions, all taken under cover of being for the greater good. This week, we set the stage and define the characters in preparation for next week’s story about one of the most controversial nights in the history of Atlanta. But first, it’s the tale of a city’s efforts to become legal on this week’s Stories of Atlanta.

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Lance Russell is an Atlanta-based filmmaker and media communicator who, for over three decades, has been entrusted by clients to tell their stories. A seasoned producer with an innate ability to cut to...

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