1980s - Timelines - Atlanta Magazine
Atlanta Timelines
Trace news, trends, major events, and pop culture breakthroughs over the decades since Atlanta magazine's 1961 launch.


The city is rocked by the Atlanta Child Murders, CNN is launched, and suburban sprawl gains steam.

February 1980
The Limelight Atlanta opens in a shopping center on Piedmont Road. The club, nicknamed the “Slimelight” by devotees and detractors alike, closes by the mid-1980s, but the adjacent supermarket is branded with the moniker “Disco Kroger” for the next two decades.

June 1, 1980
CNN, the world’s first twenty-four-hour news channel, is launched by Ted Turner, who pronounces a long future for the venture: “We’ll be on, and we will cover the end of the world—live.”
>> Read the May 2011 cover story profile of Ted Turner.

Even more Eighties stuff
Our best covers of the decade
Iconic music venue, the 688 Club

August 14, 1980
Atlanta police form a task force to investigate the Atlanta Child Murders; it is not until fall that the FBI joins the investigation.

September 21, 1980
A new airport passenger terminal opens, the world’s largest at 2.5 million square feet.

November 4, 1980
Jimmy Carter loses a bid for reelection to Ronald Reagan.

June 5, 1981
The Centers for Disease Control identifies GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency), later renamed AIDS.

June 21, 1981
Wayne Williams is arrested. He is subsequently charged with the murder of two adult males—and linked to the Atlanta Child Murders cases by circumstantial evidence.

October 27, 1981
Andrew Young is elected mayor of Atlanta.

January 11–12, 1982
Snow Jam ’82 paralyzes Atlanta for two days.

September 3, 1982
The Atlanta Hawks trade two players to the Utah Jazz and sign former UGA star Dominique Wilkins, who will go on to earn the nickname “Human Highlight Film” and enter the record books as one of the few players to score more than 25,000 points. Three years later, the Hawks sign Anthony “Spud” Webb, the pint-sized player and fan favorite who will beat Wilkins in the 1986 slam-dunk contest.

November 8, 1983
Atlanta Brave Dale Murphy wins his second consecutive MVP honor. The clean-living Murphy (a Mormon) is immensely popular, and the AJC runs the “Ask Dale Murphy” advice column for kids.

The Sweet Auburn Heritage Festival is founded by Hosea Williams.

RuPaul, known for plastering Midtown with posters proclaiming “RuPaul Is Red Hot,” earns mainstream cred for playing Riff Raff in Theatrical Outfit’s production of Rocky Horror. A modest hit (“Supermodel”), deal with MAC cosmetics, and reality-show stardom are in the entertainer’s future.

February 12, 1986
Professor Jan Kemp wins a $2.57 million wrongful termination suit against the University of Georgia, which demoted and then fired her after she complained about UGA keeping athletes eligible to play even if they failed remedial classes. To avoid an appeal, Kemp settles for $1 million. The victory is mitigated by vilification from football fans for her role in exposing abuses in college sports.

July 5, 1986
Opening day of the Goodwill Games, a partnership of Turner Broadcasting and Soviet sports and media organizations. Described by the New York Times as “an unusual marriage of capitalism and communism,” the games attract 3,000 athletes from eighty countries. The games will be discontinued after Time Warner acquires Turner.

January 17, 1987
Hosea Williams attempts to lead a march in Forsyth County, protesting its lack of diversity. White supremacists disrupt the marchers, who return on January 24.

Labor Day Weekend, 1987
The first DragonCon convention is held.

June 18, 1988
The airport MARTA station opens.

June 24, 1988
Historic Clark College and Atlanta University merge to form Clark Atlanta University.

July 18–21, 1988
The Democratic National Convention is held in Atlanta. Jesse Jackson delivers a memorable speech, and Michael Dukakis accepts the nomination. Politics is overshadowed by coverage of celebrity attendee Rob Lowe, who videotaped a sexual escapade with two female fans—one of them sixteen.

Underground Atlanta reopens after a $142 million face-lift.

October 3, 1989
Maynard Jackson is elected to a third term as mayor.

Antonio “L.A.” Reid and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds form LaFace Records, laying the foundation for Atlanta’s 1990s emergence as the epicenter for hip-hop and R&B.

December 13, 1989
Driving Miss Daisy opens to praise from reviewers.

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