Features - Atlanta Magazine

Author Justin Heckert

  • Justin Heckert

    Writer at Large

    Justin Heckert was born in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. His mother has been an English lit teacher for more than thirty years, and his dad a jack-of-all-trades—working as a superintendant in the Scott City, Missouri, school district, as a copy-machine salesman, at a casino in California, and now at the Atlanta airport. Heckert has always known he wanted to be a writer, and went to college to get degrees in art and creative writing, but changed his major to journalism. His first article, about a high school softball game, was published in the Columbia Missourian in 1999, and two years later he ended up winning the James D. Atwater Memorial Writing Prize for the best writing at the University of Missouri J-school, along with every other writing award the school offered. From 2003 to 2005, Heckert was a staff writer at Atlanta. In 2005, he was named Writer of the Year by the City and Regional Magazine Association. He has also written for ESPN The Magazine, Esquire, Men's Journal, The Oxford American, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Crime Reporting and has been noted in The Best American Essays, The Best American Nonrequired Reading, and The Best American Sports Writing. Heckert lives with his wife, Amanda, and their dog, Cooper, in Decatur.


The Big Break

The teachers began to notice him at the beginning of the 2010 school year, the stranger in a red pickup truck and lizard-skin boots. Read more

The Great Speckled Bird Flies Again

An aging hippie limps into Aurora Coffee and takes a seat beneath the concert flyers that cover the wall. He drops a plastic grocery bag onto the sticky countertop, lifts out a pile of old newspapers folded in half. Read more

The Town that Blew Away

Vaughn, Georgia, was a good place to live. Before its houses were wrecked and its trailers spit into the treetops, before its ancient oaks were uprooted and snapped in two, before its residents crawled from the ruins to see that almost nothing remained. Read more

Zombies Are So Hot Right Now

After one season, The Walking Dead has become very important not just to zombie fans, but to our city. Read more

Her Own Flesh and Blood

A few weeks after Joshua Paul’s death, there was a message on the answering machine for her to call the doctor. And the doctor relayed the news over the phone, as if the message was too difficult to utter in person: Joshua Paul tested positive for HIV, and your whole family needs to be tested. Read more

Jimmy Carter

No matter your opinion of Carter’s four years in the White House, there’s no denying his imprint on the city of Atlanta. Read more

John Lewis

One of the youngest heroes of the civil rights movement, John Lewis moved to Atlanta in 1963 to head the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Read more

The Beards Are a Joke

They were on the road because they loved the craft, loved writing and the process of creating. After four years of doing stand-up in and around Atlanta, they were at the top of the scene. But what did that mean? Read more

Bill and Doug Got Married*

It was a small wedding. Bill and Doug arrived together for the ceremony, as for the past 50 years they had arrived together for everything. Each wore a braided gold band as a symbol of commitment. They were not dressed traditionally for such an occasion, but since it was theirs to celebrate, what they wore didn’t matter. Read more