By Maria Saporta
Two of Georgia’s most notorious figures were inducted today to Georgia Trend’s Most Influential Georgians Hall of Fame — enlivening the lunch with their uniquely seasoned personalities.
What other way can one describe longtime political journalist Bill Shipp and Civil Rights leader and activist Rev. Joseph Lowery.
First Shipp was introduced by Georgia Trend Publisher Neely Young, who called Shipp a “franchise.”
After receiving a standing ovation, Shipp spoke from a wheelchair while sitting at one of the front tables in the the Ritz Carlton Atlanta ballroom. He thanked Georgia Trend for the honor. He also credited his family — daughters Edie and Michelle — as well as his late wife, Renate, for their part in helping him receive such a high award.
“I only wish Reny could have been present at this occasion,” said Shipp, with his voice crackling with emotion.
Then, Shipp became his old self again — feisty as always.
“I also want to thank my long-suffering readers for their loyalty and kindness,” Shipp said. “Of course, there is another group of readers whom I wish to address — the mean-spirited rascals who tried to make my life miserable, and stood and cheered when I retired. I’ve got news for you. Fasten your seatbelts. I’m back.”
Then on cue, Rev. Lowery was wheeled in his own wheelchair. He apologized for being late, saying that in his house, he’s outnumbered by women, and they insisted that he had to go to the doctor before coming to the luncheon where he had been told he would have three minutes to speak.
“It takes me that long to get up, and about another three minutes to remember why I got up,” said Lowery, who delivered the benediction at Barack Obama’s historical presidential inauguration a year ago. In August, President Obama also awarded Lowery the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
Once he stood up, Lowery gave an impassioned talk about the children in Haiti who had witnessed so much tragedy. “I can’t get the children off my mind,” Lowery said.
“I asked God, ‘Why Haiti?’” Lowery said. “God said, “Don’t ask me why.’”
Then, Lowery asked those attending the luncheon honoring the 100 Most Influential Georgians to join him in everyone giving $100. He then pulled out two $50 bills and handed them to Neely Young.
The luncheon was packed with some of the most powerful people in the state — from university presidents, business leaders and government officials.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed was there in time to be recognized as one of the 100 Most Influential. He had come a few minutes late because he had been at an event for House Speaker David Ralston. Then, after picking up his Georgia Trend certificate, Reed rushed off to be the keynote speaker at the Buckhead Coalition’s annual meeting.
For the past couple of years, Georgia Trend has scheduled its lunch on the same day as the Buckhead Coalition’s annual meeting, which makes it a difficult choice for some of the folks who are invited to both events.
Reed was able to be in at least two places at the same time. Former Atlanta Mayor Sam Massell, who is president of the Buckhead Coalition, said Reed showed up 10 minutes earlier than expected, in plenty of time to deliver his 15-minute talk.
According to Massell, the most memorable line that Reed shared with the Buckhead Coalition was: “I’m not going to look to Buckhead as the city’s banker.”
Buckhead, the most affluent section of the city, is sensitive to the fact that it pays for a large share (some would say more than its fair share) of the city’s property taxes.
Reed then rushed down to attend the Atlanta Regional Commission’s board meeting, where he was sworn in as the new Atlanta mayor representative. The board held a few agenda items until he arrived and was able to participate.