Tour of mayors’ graves in Oakland Cemetery a solemn reminder before election day
By David Pendered
The Greek leader Pericles said something about legacy that is worth recollecting in the final weekend of the campaign in Atlanta’s general election. Oakland Cemetery is putting in its 2 cents, as well.
Pericles is widely credited with observing:
- “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”
The Oakland Historic Foundation is hosting an event Sunday in the cemetery where 27 mayors are interred. The foundation didn’t indicate it finds anything noteworthy about a program that helps wind up an election cycle with a clear reminder of the fate of aspiring candidates and voters, alike.
Here’s the totality of the invitation to the event:
- “Oakland Cemetery is the final resting place for 27 former mayors of Atlanta. In anticipation of the city’s mayoral election this November, Historic Oakland Foundation will look back and recognize several civic leaders who shaped the history of Atlanta through their policies, controversies, and political decisions. Join us as we explore Atlanta’s political past and prepare to vote for Atlanta’s future.”
Consider the history of just two mayors. Their names outlast the grave and are inscribed in the itinerary of every airline passenger who travels to, or transits through, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
William B. Hartsfield (1890-1971)
“William B. Hartsfield was a man of humble origins who became one of the greatest mayors of Atlanta. He served as mayor for six terms (1937-41, 1942-61), longer than any other person in the city’s history.
- “Hartsfield held office during a critical period when the color line separating the races began to change and the city grew from more than 100,000 inhabitants to a metropolitan population of one million.
- “He is credited with developing Atlanta into the aviation powerhouse that it is today and with building its image as ‘the City Too Busy to Hate.’”
Maynard Jackson (1938-2003)
- “Elected mayor of Atlantain 1973, Maynard Jackson was the first African American to serve as mayor of a major southern city. Jackson served eight years and then returned for a third term in 1990, following the mayorship of Andrew Young.
- “As a result of affirmative action programs instituted by Jackson in his first two terms, the portion of city business going to minority firms rose dramatically. A lawyerin the securities field, Jackson remained a highly influential force in city politics after leaving elected office.
“Before and during his third term, he worked closely with Young, Atlanta Olympics organizing committee chair Billy Payne, and others to bring the 1996 Olympic Games to Atlanta.”
The Olympics predate Pericles by nearly 300 years. The Olympics date to 776 B.C. and Pericles was born in 495 B.C. Both continue to have profound effects on global culture.
Pericle’s remains widely known for his Funeral Oration, as recorded by Thucydides in his History of the Peloponnesian War. Remarks from the opening and closing portions of the speech are worth consideration during the tours of Oakland:
- “Mankind are tolerant of the praises of others so long as each hearer thinks that he can do as well or nearly as well himself, but, when the speaker rises above him, jealousy is aroused and he begins to be incredulous. However, since our ancestors have set the seal of their approval upon the practice, I must obey, and to the utmost of my power shall endeavor to satisfy the wishes and beliefs of all who hear me….
- “To you who are the sons and brothers of the departed, I see that the struggle to emulate them will be an arduous one. For all men praise the dead, and, however preeminent your virtue may be, I do not say even to approach them, and avoid living their rivals and detractors, but when a man is out of the way, the honor and goodwill which he receives is unalloyed. And, if I am to speak of womanly virtues to those of you who will henceforth be widows, let me sum them up in one short admonition: To a woman not to show more weakness than is natural to her sex is a great glory, and not to be talked about for good or for evil among men.”
Atlanta mayors interred at Oakland Cemetery
|Benjamin Franklin Bomar||1849|
|John F. Mims||1853|
|Jared Irwin Whitaker||1861|
|Thomas F. Lowe||1861|
|James Montgomery Calhoun||1862-1865|
|James Etheldred Williams||1866-1868|
|William Henry Hulsey||1869|
|Samuel Bacon Spencer||1874|
|William Lowndes Calhoun||1879-1880|
|James Warren English||1881-1882|
|John Tyler Cooper||1887-1888|
|John Thomas Glen||1889-1890|
|William A. Hemphill||1891-1892|
|Charles Augustus Collier||1897-1898|
|James G. Woodward||1899-1900/1905-1906/1913-1916|
|Robert Foster Maddox||1909-1910|
|Ivan Allen Jr.||1962-1970|
|Maynard Holbrook Jackson Jr.||1974-1982/ 1990-1994|
|Willis Buell||1850||unmarked grave|
Credit: Oakland Cemetery