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Coach Nick Saban shares key steps on the journey to success, whether it’s football or business

As a football coach who has led his teams to seven national championships, Nick Saban knows a little something about traveling the road to success. And in Saban’s eyes, success in football or in business isn’t achieved by focusing on the prize but rather by giving attention to all the steps that must be taken on the journey toward winning the prize.

“One of the things I always struggle with,” Saban said, “is we live in such an outcome-oriented world. People want to focus on outcomes, and I think outcomes are a bit of a distraction.”

Instead, leaders should focus on the process―that is, doing the things big and small that will produce the outcome they want to achieve. Rather than a leader in business talking about how much product they want to sell, Saban said, the leader should be working with individuals “to do the things that are going to help them get the outcome we want to achieve.”

Saban, the University of Alabama’s head football coach, shared his thoughts on leadership and achieving success in the April episode of the 21st Century Business Forum, a monthly webcast which features one-on-one interviews with some of the nation’s most prominent business minds and thought leaders. The Business Forum is presented by Atlanta magazine, and sponsored in April by Amelia Island.

Whether in business or in sports, the most important thing a leader can do is to define and create the organization’s culture, Saban told 21st Century Business Forum host, author Jon Gordon. And, Saban added, “I think mindset is a very important part of culture.”

In order to breed success, leaders need “to get people to have a vision for what they want to accomplish and what they want to do, to get them to understand ‘here’s the things you have to do to accomplish that, here’s how you have to edit your behavior to be able to do it,’ and then have the discipline to execute it every day,” Saban said.

“I think the hardest thing for most folks is the discipline piece,” the coach said.

And when it comes to the “discipline piece,” the leader needs to set the example.

“The first thing about leadership to me is that you really have to be somebody that somebody (else) wants to emulate,” Saban said. “You have to do things the right way yourself, and I think a lot of times people would rather not choose to do that because it requires a commitment on their part.”

The second part of leadership, Saban said, is a willingness “to help other people for their benefit, not for your benefit.” Doing so for your benefit “is manipulation,” he said.

Saban said building good individual leaders on a team by investing time in people on a one-to-one basis allows those individuals to positively influence the people around them.

In football, for example, “If you have a good leader at every position, he can impact every player at his position,” Saban said. “Just like if you have good leadership in every part of your business, they can influence the individuals in their part” of the organization, he said. And that’s important “because the individuals make the team what it is,” Saban said.

Although Saban is widely regarded as college football’s most successful coach, he warns against taking success for granted.

“Success is not a continuum; it’s temporary,” Saban said. Successful people can become complacent, he noted, adding, “Complacency breeds a blatant disregarding for doing what’s right.”

The Business Forum continues May 12 with entrepreneur and renowned innovation keynote speaker Josh Linkner, a two-time New York Times best-selling author, on The Novel Economy: Thriving in a Digital-First Environment. It airs April 14 at 12 PM EST. Learn more and register to view the webcast for free.

What we know so far about the metro Atlanta spa shootings

What we know about Atlanta spa massage parlor shootings
Three Asian women were shot and killed at Gold Spa on Piedmont Road on March 16.

Photograph by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

This is a breaking news situation; this story was last updated at 2 p.m. on March 19.

What happened:

At about 4:50 p.m. on March 16, a man, who police identified as 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, of Woodstock, arrived at Young’s Asian Massage on Highway 92 near Bells Ferry Road in Cherokee County and allegedly shot five people. Two Asian women, one white woman, and one white man were killed. Authorities identified the victims as Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, of Acworth; Daoyou Feng, 44; Xiaojie Tan, 49, of Kennesaw; and Paul Andre Michels, 54, of Atlanta. The surviving victim, Elcias Hernandez-Ortiz, of Acworth, is at WellStar Kennestone Hospital in stable condition as of Wednesday morning, according to Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office Captain Jay Baker.

Almost an hour later and about 30 miles away, Atlanta Police responded to a robbery call at Gold Spa in Piedmont Heights. Three Asian women were shot and killed. Another Asian woman was shot and killed at Aromatherapy Spa across the street. Video surveillance footage showed Long’s car parked outside the businesses at the time of the shootings. On Friday, the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office released the names of the four victims: Soon Chung Park, 74; Hyun Jung Grant, 51; Suncha Kim, 69; and Yong Ae Yue, 63.

At about 8 p.m., Long was stopped by police in Crisp County, about 150 miles south of Atlanta. Georgia state troopers used a PIT maneuver to stop Long’s SUV, and he was arrested and booked into the Crisp County Detention Center.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Long purchased a gun at Big Woods Goods in Holly Springs hours before the shootings.

Who are the victims:

Xiaojie Tan, the owner of Young’s Asian Massage and Wang’s Feet & Body Massage in Kennesaw, was killed two days before her 50th birthday. Originally from Nanning, China, she moved to Florida in 2006 with her husband, Michael Webb, and her daughter Jami, USA Today reports. She became a nail technician, then went on to own her own businesses, moving to Georgia in 2010 and opening a nail salon on the Marietta Square. Daughter Jami, who graduated from UGA in 2019, told USA Today that her mother would always ask her customers where they’d traveled to and was putting together a retirement travel wish list. “She loved to make friends with all her customers,” Jami said. She told the newspaper the family had yet to tell her grandmother about Tan’s death, as they were worried it would make her ill.

Delaina Ashley Yaun was visiting Young’s Asian Massage as a date night with her husband, who survived the shooting. The couple, who married last year, have an 8-month-old daughter and a 14-year-old son, and Tuesday was “their first evening out” since having the baby, Yaun’s grandfather told the AJC. She worked at a Waffle House in Acworth. Her sister, Dana Toole, told the Guardian that Yaun was outgoing and always helped others. A friend told the paper that she “loved wrestling with her son and cheering him on during his cross country matches.” A GoFundMe for the family has raised more than $33,000.

Daoyou Feng worked at Young’s Asian Massage. The AJC spoke with a customer who said Feng had only been working at the spa for a few months, and said “he could tell she was warm and easy to get along with.”

Paul Andre Michels was a handyman and did repairs at Young’s Asian Massage, the Guardian reports. His brother told the paper that he and Michels, two of nine children, were “basically twins” and that Michaels “was just a regular guy, very good-hearted, very soft-natured.” An Army veteran, he previously owned a home security business and told his brother that “he was actually transitioning into owning a spa.”

Elcias Hernandez-Ortiz, an auto repair shop owner and mechanic, survived the shooting at Young’s Asian Massage and was hospitalized at WellStar Kennestone Hospital with gunshot injuries. His wife, Flor Gonzalez, told the Washington Post that she thinks her husband might “have been heading to a shop next to the spa to send money to their parents in Guatemala.” The paper reports he was wounded in the forehead, throat, lungs and stomach; on a GoFundMe page to raise money for his medical bills, Gonzales described the injuries: “He was shot in the forehead down to his lungs and into his stomach. He will be needing facial surgery.” The fund has raised more than $99,000. The couple has a 9-year-old daughter.

Hyun Jung Grant (nee Kim) worked at Gold Spa and lived in Duluth with her two sons. The Daily Beast interviewed her oldest, Randy Grant, 23, who said he had a close relationship with his mother. “I could tell her anything. If I had girl problems or whatever. She wasn’t just my mother. She was my friend,” he told the news outlet. He said she immigrated from South Korea for “regular immigrant reasons” and loved dancing and getting sushi at Haru Ichiban. “She was a single mother of two kids who dedicated her whole life to raising them,” Randy said. Randy set up a GoFundMe to raise money for he and his brother to stay in their home “for at least one more month;” the brothers are the sole family members living in the United States. “Losing her has put a new lens on my eyes on the amount of hate that exists in our world. As much as I want to grieve and process the reality that she is gone, I have a younger brother to take care of and matters to resolve as a result of this tragedy. Frankly, I have no time to grieve for long,” Randy wrote on the fundraising page. The fund has raised more than $700,000 so far, and Randy updated the page Friday with a message of gratitude: “I will live the rest of my days grateful for what has essentially given my family a second chance . . . Thank you everyone and please share whatever care and kindness you have shown here to anyone you know that feels scared or unsure about the world we live in. . . . My mother can rest easy knowing I have the support of the world with me.”

What investigators are saying:

On March 17, a joint press conference was held with the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, Atlanta Police Department, Georgia State Patrol, and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds said Long had been transferred to the Cherokee County Adult Detention Center and was interviewed by Cherokee County and Atlanta police, along with the FBI. “[Long] made indicators that he has some issues, potentially sexual addiction, and may have frequented some of these places in the past,” Reynolds said.

Bottoms said at the press conference that Long was en route to Florida “perhaps to carry out additional shootings” when he was stopped by police. Baker said that Long intended to target “some type of porn industry” in Florida, and that a 9 mm firearm was found in his vehicle.

“The suspect did take responsibility for the shootings,” Baker said. “He does claim that it was not racially motivated. He apparently has an issue, what he considers a sex addiction, and sees these locations as . . . a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate.” Both Baker and Reynolds, however, stressed that the investigation is still in the very early stages.

Necessary context: A dramatic rise in hate crimes toward Asian Americans:

There has been an increase in the past year of racist attacks toward Asian Americans during the Covid-19 pandemic. Stop AAPI Hate released data today stating that of the 3,800 hate incidents reported to the group in 2020, which was higher than the amount reported in 2019, more than 68 percent were reported by women, or more than 2.3 higher than incidents reported by men. And the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University San Bernardino stated that hate crimes toward Asian Americans grew last year by 150 percent, despite the amount of hate crimes overall decreasing by 7 percent.

On March 15, Georgia state Senator Michelle Au addressed the state Senate about the increase in hate crimes toward Asian Americans. “All I’m asking right now, as the first East Asian state senator in Georgia, is simply to fully consider us as part of our communities. Recognize that we need help, we need protection, and we need people in power to stand up for us against hate,” she said. On March 17, she released a statement saying, “Our AAPI community has been living in fear this past year in the shadow of escalating racial discrimination and attacks. This latest series of murders only heightens that terror.”

“Whatever the motivation was for this guy, we know that the majority of the victims were Asian,” Bottoms said at the press conference. “We also know that this [violence against Asian Americans] is an issue that is happening across the county. It is unacceptable, it is hateful, and it has to stop.” She added that the city “[has] not seen a significant uptick in formal complaints within the city of Atlanta, but obviously this is a large metropolitan region. We’re hearing the stories, we’re seeing them on television, we’re seeing them on social media, so we’re certainly are aware, and we stand ready to provide any additional resources.” Early in the pandemic, we reported about a Chinese restaurant on Buford Highway that was receiving racist prank phone calls. Stop AAPI Hate also has a report on incidents in Georgia that were reported to their organization last year.

Controversy surrounding Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office Captain Jay Baker:

During Wednesday morning’s press conference, Baker described Long’s mindset and actions as, “He was pretty much fed up, at the end of his rope, and this was a very bad day for him and this is what he did.” The statement sparked outrage and controversy; Bianca Jyotishi, Georgia manager for the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, told the AJC that the comments downplayed the seriousness of the killings and were “unconscionable and blatantly offensive.” Twitter users then found what appeared to be a Facebook account for Baker, with a post allegedly from Baker from April 2020 advertising a racist and anti-Asian T-shirt, encouraging others to buy it. The Facebook page has since been deleted and Baker has not commented. The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office released a statement on Thursday apologizing for “any heartache Captain Baker’s words may have caused.” He has been removed as the spokesman for the case, WSB-TV reports.

A fake Facebook screenshot:

There is a fake screenshot circulating on social media, a Facebook post of anti-China rhetoric attached to Long’s name and photo. According to New York Times tech reporter Davey Alba, Facebook has confirmed the screenshot is a fake and is “removing it from the platform for violating its policies.”

John Maxwell: Covid-19 has been a proving ground to reveal true leaders in business

“Crisis brings out the best and worst in people,” says leadership expert John Maxwell, and the world-changing effects of Covid-19 have presented a proving ground to reveal who the true leaders are in workplaces across the country.

“A crisis separates the players from the pretenders,” said Maxwell, who is the author of dozens of books on leadership, the most recent of which is Change Your World.

Maxwell characterized the Covid-19 crisis as “a great time to find out who your leaders are, because you’ll never know who they are by what they say.” Rather, real leaders are revealed “by what they do in a very difficult time.”

Maxwell shared his thoughts on leadership and embracing change during the latest episode of the 21st Century Business Forum, presented by Atlanta magazine. This monthly webcast features one-on-one online interviews with some of the nation’s most prominent business minds and thought leaders.

The greatest leaders are those “who are able to make adjustments” when times and conditions change, Maxwell said. That’s especially the case when the world around us changes for the worse.

“It’s our response to bad things that determines whether bad things become good things or whether bad things become worse things,” Maxwell said. “You can’t be a resilient leader and be a resistant leader,” he noted. Rather, leaders must be open to learning and growing.

From a personal perspective, Maxwell shared that his greatest leadership challenge “isn’t leading other people; it’s leading me. And leading me isn’t easy, because it’s more than words. It’s example.”

Maxwell said leaders must first apply leadership principles to themselves, beginning with “good values,” which give you the moral authority and credibility to lead others.

“When people learn good values and then they live them, they become more valuable,” he said. “They become more valuable to themselves, they become more valuable to their families, they become more valuable to their neighbors.” It is what he calls the “values lift.” And the cornerstone of those values is living by the Golden Rule, where you treat others the way you’d like to be treated.

According to Maxwell, the most effective way for leaders to discuss values is to share them in small groups, or what he calls “transformation tables.” He is using this technique in Guatemala, where he said almost 2 million people have participated in the concept, including ex-prisoners who have stayed out of prison since their release.

Asked by the Business Forum’s host, author Jon Gordon, to name three things leaders should do in 2021, Maxwell shared the following:

  • “Leave the world of good intentions and go to the world of good action.” People are attracted by action, he said.
  • “A decision to take action still isn’t an action.” Act on your decisions, he said.
  • Don’t have a “trying” attitude, have a “doing” attitude. “If I have a ‘trying’ attitude I’m asking myself, ‘Can I?’ But if I have a ‘doing’ attitude I’m asking myself ‘How can I?’ The answer then becomes figuring out the best way to deal with a problem or situation.”

The Business Forum continues in March with guest best-selling author Renee Mauborgne, named the No. 1 Management Thinker in the world. It airs March 10 at 12 PM EST. Register here to view the webcast free here.

Noodles or dumplings? Here’s where to get both takeout favorites in Atlanta

Salaryman: Hangover Ramen
Salaryman: Hangover Ramen

Photograph by Emma Fishman

Mamak Vegan
Chow kway teow
We love this Malaysian staple at BuHi’s Mamak—and we’re just as smitten with the plant-based version at its new vegan outpost in Chamblee.

Salaryman
Hangover Ramen
This East Lake gem offers a fiery, headache-curing miracle ramen—meticulously packed for takeout.

Vietvana
Beef pho
For your soul-healing broth, choose a cooked meat as opposed to one of the rare ones; they travel better. Locations in Avondale Estates and Midtown.

LanZhou Ramen
Hand-pulled noodles
Just like you’ll find in northwest China, these noodles are an art form. We like ours spicy, stir-fried, and with seafood. Locations on BuHi in Doraville and in Kennesaw.

Mushi Ni: Steamed Shrimp Hakao
Mushi Ni: Steamed Shrimp Hakao

Photograph by Emma Fishman

Gu’s
Zhong-style dumplings
These delicate, velvety, slippery dumplings cradle pork or veggies and have the perfect spicy kick. Available at Krog Street Market or on BuHi.

Mushi Ni
Steamed Shrimp Hakao
These magical mini-dumplings in East Atlanta Village are a pastel rainbow of pliant dough, packed with fragrant shrimp.

Northern China Eatery
Pork and chive pot stickers
You can’t choose wrong among the two dozen dumpling varieties at this BuHi mainstay. Be sure to grab a sack of 24 or 60 frozen dumplings, too.

Fire Stone
Pan-fried pork dumplings
This fairly new, highly impressive Sichuan joint in Kennesaw offers pork dumplings steamed or pan-fried (and so many other goodies).

This article appears in our February 2021 issue.

60 years of covering Atlanta: The 2010s

0319 March 2019 cover
March 2019 The first time royalty appeared on an Atlanta cover? Perhaps.

For our January 2021 issue, in honor of our 60th anniversary year, we dug through our archives to present a snapshot of the magazine during each of our six decades. We discovered groundbreaking work, inspiring stories, and, yes, some errors in judgement. Here’s what we found:

The ’10s in 6 Quotes

The city booms after the bust, the South more powerfully confronts its past, and Stacey Abrams plans a progressive revolution

Blurred Lines: What Defines Graffiti as Art or Vandalism?
August 2015

Neighbors embrace graffiti at Krog Street Tunnel but organize teams to paint over tags a few blocks west at the Boulevard Tunnel. The city has employed a police officer to infiltrate graffiti circles and make arrests but welcomes artists from around the world to paint murals on facades.

The Lost Communities
April 2016

“Our African American neighborhoods have been displaced by park spaces and transportation infrastructure. That’s not just a Buckhead story; it’s an Atlanta story and beyond.” — Erica Danylchak, Buckhead Heritage Society executive director, on Harmony Grove Cemetery in Buckhead

Stacey Abrams
Stacey Abrams

Illustration by Lindsay Mound

Hoping to Catch a Blue Wave
October 2018

In an echo of the 2008 Obama campaign, Stacey Abrams and supporters have launched a multiracial coalition of progressive advocates, plus volunteers new to politics, to make inroads with newer, first-time, or marginalized voters in the form of roundtable talks with the candidate, meet and greets, and door knocking. Volunteers like Dr. Opal Ware, a 76-year-old get-out-the-vote expert who trained with Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-California), hand out voter registration applications to strangers they meet.

You in the Beige!
November 2015

A writer knows that no story has a plot without change. My South is full of change. The books we nine Southern authors wrote told stories of family wreckage, of leaving home and finding it, of childhood and growing old, of sexuality and racism. I know that in my writing I try to give voice to those who have lost theirs. But the Southern women our photo implied were caricatures of a long-ago era. With my rigid smile and flowing skirt, I let my voice be silenced as well. — Jessica Handler, writing about a Vanity Fair photo shoot of regional female authors, including herself, wearing ball gowns at the Swan House

What is It? An Oral History of Izzy, the Mascot Marketing Snafu of Olympic Proportions
July 2016

“This was our ‘hey, world, we’re Atlanta’ moment. It’s almost like [a] parody of every other mascot that came before it—a generic mascot that’s not anything but everything at the same time. . . . Atlanta tries so hard to be what we think the world wants to view us as. Izzy was so squeaky clean and so safe for a soulful and funky metropolis in the down and dirty South.” — Artist Ronnie Land

Groundbreakers: Avalon
September 2015

“People do accuse this of being a Disney-ized version of urbanism, and I think it’s guilty as charged, but there are obviously a lot of people willing to pay $110 to get into Disney. It’s not for everybody. But it will become a much more environmentally sustainable way of living in the suburbs.” —Urbanism advocate Christopher Leinberger


Wealth, Waffles, and Walking Dead

Our archives reminded us that Atlanta keeps evolving, for better or worse­­—but our hometown 24-hour diner remains the same.

“Will Buckhead Be Back?”
May 2010

With a four-page photo spread as an opener, staff writer Thomas Lake chronicled developer Ben Carter’s big gambit—spending $200 million to transform nine acres of the old Buckhead Village (which some locals vilified as a “rainbow coalition of criminals”) into “Atlanta’s version of Rodeo Drive.” Carter had the misfortune to purchase and scrape the land just as the nation headed into recession. By the time our story ran, he was on the brink of attracting another $200 million and finishing his dream, which had sat, per Lake, like “a wound in the soft pink saprolite, two blocks long and up to 40 feet deep.” Of course, no one ever guessed that Atlanta might not want Rodeo Drive. The struggling Streets of Buckhead was later rebranded as the confusing Buckhead Atlanta and then the Shops Buckhead Atlanta—which was purchased last year by Jamestown of Ponce City Market fame and named, naturally, Buckhead Village.

Waffle House
December 2014

Waffle House landed on the cover of our annual Best of Atlanta issue in 2007, marking the chain’s 50th anniversary. But our fixation was just getting started. With a redesign that launched in December 2014, we introduced a monthly short called “Meanwhile, at Waffle House,” which chronicled life at the beloved Georgia institution. The first piece described a couple of late-night robberies, including a successful heist by a man wearing a Scream mask in Conyers. We found enough material for monthly items until May 2016.

Hollywood of the South
September 2011

The cover story of our “Hollywood Comes to Atlanta” issue began thusly: “Georgia does not want to be a Lindsay Lohan, a starlet who skyrockets to fame, makes bad decisions, then fizzles out like some long-tailed, bleach-blond comet. Georgia wants to be Meryl Streep, whom filmmakers clamor to work with and who enjoys a long, respected career.” Governor Nathan Deal signed the Georgia Entertainment Industry Investment Act in May 2008, providing a 20 percent tax credit for productions that spent more than $500,000 in the state, laying the foundation for an economic powerhouse that now brings some $9.5 billion to the state, according to the Georgia Department of Economic Development. That September issue documented how Peter and Bobby Farrelly’s The Three Stooges benefitted local businesses—down to Highland Pet Supply and Bennie’s Shoes. We traced the history of film in Georgia and included a feature “Zombies Are So Hot Right Now” by Justin Heckert on the making of season two of The Walking Dead. TWD became an obsession in itself, landing on our November 2013 cover and inspiring weekly online updates that ran for six years. The 2013 issue included a guide to the Hollywood of the South, designed to look like a supermarket tabloid. Over the decade, we stalked film sets, interviewed stars and studio executives, offered tips on being an extra, and, most recently, agonized over how the heartbeat bill could chase crews away. Tyler Perry, we still want to write your profile.


The Oral History of Freaknik

Oral History of Freaknik
Thousands of college students and gawkers packed city parks and clogged major streets for a slow-rolling party.

Photograph by Chris Rank/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP

By Errin Haines and Rebecca Burns | Originally published March 2015 and excerpted here

Chapter I. The Innocent Origins

It all started in the spring of 1983 with a picnic organized by students attending the Atlanta University Center. As at other historically black colleges and universities, AUC was home to “state clubs” made up of students with common home states. The clubs held social events during the school year and served as pre-Facebook clearinghouses for shared rides home. That spring, members of the DC Metro club threw a picnic in Piedmont Park for students who found themselves stuck on campus over spring break. It was a simple event—sandwiches, coolers, boom boxes, that sort of thing, recalls Sharon Toomer, then a Spelman College freshman and one of the organizers. “A lot of us came by bus; no one had cars back then,” she says of the gathering in the field at the corner of 10th Street and Monroe Drive. In those days, Piedmont Park was shabby, the picnic area little more than a vacant lot.

Marcellus Barksdale came to Morehouse as a history professor in 1977 and still teaches history and African American studies. At that time, the “state clubs” were real popular. The DC Metro Club was made up of students from Spelman and Morehouse who were from Washington, Virginia, and Maryland.

Sharon Toomer now lives in Brooklyn and is the publisher of BlackandBrownNews.com. That year, we had a theme called “the Freak.” We had the “Freak Dance,” which was close to the holidays. It was really around the dance at the time, which was “Le Freak,” the Chic song. Rick James and all that just became our theme.

Barksdale: There was that song, “Superfreak.” And [the event name] was like, “This is where we were going to be able to get freaky.”

Toomer: It was a student called Rico Brown who suggested, “Let’s call it Freaknic,” putting together picnic and freak.

Over the years, the spelling morphed into Freaknik and the event’s timing shifted from spring break—usually in early March—to the “reading week” period before final exams (generally the third weekend in April). As talk of Freaknik spread, it drew students from far beyond the AUC—and a fair share of non-students. For several years, the party hopscotched from park to park on the west side.

Barksdale: They had a big picnic at John White Park on Cascade Road. Nobody was counting heads, but it was a large turnout; I’d say a good 5,000. People brought their boom boxes. They brought their grills, their blankets, and, of course, their coolers. It was a beautiful occasion.

Kasim Reed is mayor of Atlanta. He grew up here and attended Howard University, where, as a college freshman in 1988, he came home to attend Freaknik (though he’d also attended while in high school). When Freaknik started, my brothers were in college. Everyone who’s honest of our generation had some experience with it. When I went, it was still cool—and primarily students.

Edward Simpson graduated from Creekside High School in 1995. He works as a technical writer and lives in Atlanta. Let’s be very clear: No, my mother did not know where I was going or what I was up to! She would’ve had a heart attack. I would tell her I was going out to a party or hanging out with friends. My older brother was with me, so it was never a big deal as long as I was with him. The West End was somewhere close by that we could get to and still make it home in time for our curfew.

Kwanza Hall has served on Atlanta City Council since 2006. He first attended Freaknik while attending Benjamin E. Mays High School, where he graduated in 1989. Later, as a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Hall returned to Atlanta to attend Freaknik. I only caught wind of it because I was in Mr. Butler’s art class. I was a freshman, but the art class, it was all seniors. If you were around them, you knew what they were doing. When I heard they were going places, I would go, too. You had teachers whose children were there. It was the chatter of the big brothers and big sisters of my classmates. Someone who might’ve just graduated tells the seniors, “Look at what we’re doing! We go to this thing called Freaknik!”

Jermaine Dupri is a producer and the founder of So So Def. Club 112 was so crowded that I couldn’t even go through the front of the club; I had to go through the kitchen. That’s when I knew Freaknik had taken over the city. Read the full article


Handle With Care

A celebration of—and a call to protect—Georgia’s precious coast

Secrets of the Georgia Coast
May 2015

Atlanta has a long tradition of travel stories that help readers discover the Southeast region. One of our most popular was “Secrets of the Georgia Coast.” It included a poignant essay by environmental journalist and longtime AJC contributor Charles Seabrook about the area’s fragile and endangered ecosystem. An excerpt:

May 2015 Secrets of the Coast“Among ecosystems, Georgia’s coast ranks near tropical rainforests in fertility and productivity. Its nine major estuaries (or sounds), 14 barrier islands, and some 400,000 acres of salt marsh—a third of all salt marsh along the entire Atlantic coast—connect to the ocean and each other, like a great, benevolent being that gives sustenance and refuge to untold numbers of creatures: shrimp, blue crabs, clams, oysters, all manner of finfish, birds, and other species. . . . In a sense, Georgia’s coast is lucky, perhaps unique. All but three of its barrier islands—Tybee, St. Simons, and Sea Island—are preserved through public and private initiatives. . . . But though the law remains strong, it faces legal challenges and other threats to accommodate growing numbers of residents and developers. A 2006 Georgia Tech study calculated that the population of Georgia’s 10-county coastal region leaped by 62 percent to more than 558,000 residents between 1970 and 2000; it projected another 51 percent increase to about 844,000 by 2030. Environmental experts say the forecast is right on target. “There’s a tidal wave of growth headed straight for Georgia’s coast,” warns David Pope, director of the Southern Environmental Law Center’s Atlanta office. Read the full article


Staplehouse

Staplehouse
Kara Hidinger, Ryan Smith, and Jen Hidinger

Photograph by Johnny Autry

By Corby Kummer | April 2016
This was the magazine’s only four-star review in the entire decade. Staplehouse has pivoted during the pandemic from a prix-fixe, tasting-menu restaurant to a market selling meticulously crafted pantry items and prepared food to-go. Read the review

Explore more decades

This article appears in our January 2021 issue.

60 years of covering Atlanta: The 2000s

November 2004
November 2004: OutKast ranked #6, right behind Ted Turner.

For our January 2021 issue, in honor of our 60th anniversary year, we dug through our archives to present a snapshot of the magazine during each of our six decades. We discovered groundbreaking work, inspiring stories, and, yes, some errors in judgement. Here’s what we found:

The ’00s in 8 Quotes

The city was full of bravado in the days before the Great Recession

“Phoenix Follies” (our annual “Worst of Atlanta” package)
December 2003

After adding stickers (which were later removed) calling evolution “a theory, not a fact” to textbooks, Cobb County was ranked No. 2 on the Campaign to Defend the Constitution’s top 10 “Islands of Ignorance”—places where the separation of church and state is considered threatened. But Cobb School Board chair Kathie Johnstone was more concerned with geography, saying, “None of the places they’re listing are islands.”

“Phoenix Follies”
December 2004

“The only thing correct in this indictment is the spelling of my name.” — Former mayor Bill Campbell on his racketeering charges

Five & 10 Review“Under Review: Five and Ten in Athens”
June 2002

[Hugh] Acheson could have stayed in his own country (Canada) or taken a lucrative job in San Francisco . . . but how many 30-year-olds get to do exactly what they want and open a “normal-looking restaurant” on a small budget, yet source their ingredients from the same purveyors as the most prominent chefs in the country? “Here, I can be my own man,” he tells me, clad in cargo shorts with bright green socks pulled right up to his skinny knees, with a tattooed radish crawling up his forearm.

“Conversation: Max Cleland”
October 2004

What do you think it would take for Georgia to become a solidly Democratic state again? It will never be a solidly Democratic state again. I don’t think it will ever be a solidly Republican state again. Georgia, in many ways, is reflective of the country. — Max Cleland as told to Luke Dittrich

“May ‘the ATL’ RIP”
April 2004

Truth be told, “The ATL” ceased being cutting-edge slang some time ago, and using it reeks of bandwagoneering, conformity, anything but hipness. Need proof? Just count the number of times the announcer uses the term in the radio ads for Wild Bill’s, that mammoth new country music dance club in Duluth.

“Monthly Barometer”
September 2003

“The northside’s Abercrombie crowd is starting to look like the scraggly, early Beatles. It’s enough to make a parent nostalgic for Goth.”

“Monroe Drive”
March 2001

Considering Midtown’s ragged karma, it is fascinating to watch millions of development dollars flowing into the area. Yet reborn Midtown is geared more to wealthy yuppie and dot-com newcomers than to the offbeat eccentrics and neighborhood comforts that gave the old place its original flavor. . . . The developer will have destroyed the village in the name of saving it.

“Soul Man”
October 2000

“A good time to me is sitting down with a friend and playing a game of chess. I treasure that. Or going over to a good friend’s for a nice meal, and sitting around and doing nothing but talk. Or what I like is playing cards with three or four guys and having a ‘rise and shine.’ That’s when, if you lose, you get up and serve the other people. Like, if I lose, I have to get the drinks and the little finger things.­” — Ray Charles at age 70


We Told You So

Here were some of our predictions, good and bad

On pandemics:

If avian flu becomes easily transmitted among people, about 30 percent of the U.S. population could become sick, including 40 percent of school-aged children, government experts predict. Depending on its virulence, there could be anywhere from 200,000 to almost 2 million deaths.

. . . If there’s a pandemic flu, avoid crowded places, such as concerts or sporting events. (February 2006)

On Atlanta’s never-constructed Trump Tower:

The Biggest, Best Building EVER: Donald Trump, who is planning his first Atlanta project, says it will be a “big job.” Of course it will. (July 2006)

On McMansions:

“When suburbanites come intown, they want to bring the suburbs with them. The day of the urban pioneer is gone,” says attorney Lee Meadows. The heart-pine floors, plaster walls, and black-and-white tile bathrooms of compact 1920s Craftsman bungalows can’t compete with the wired-for-plasma-TV mantel and Carrera marble–accented master bath of that “Neo-Craftsman” on Oakdale. (August 2007)

On the BeltLine:

Of course, Atlanta’s intown growth was already happening, BeltLine or no. And in the next 25 years, regional planners expect the city’s population to shoot up another 150,000, reversing decades of decline. “You have growth issues that the city has not had to deal with in 50 years,” [The Trust for Public Land’s Jim Langford] says. “Where are you going to put the schools? What about transit? What kind of density are you going to have and where? How are you going to connect those people to their jobs?” To Langford—and a growing number of others—the BeltLine goes a long way in answering those questions. (June 2006)


The Last Dreamer

The Last Dreamer John LewisAn excerpt from our August 2003 profile of Congressman John Lewis, written by Michele Cohen Marill, just after President George W. Bush ordered troops to invade Iraq:

John Lewis rises at 5 a.m. every morning, reads the newspapers, and takes a little time to gather his thoughts. When in Atlanta, he listens to a gospel station. The words of one song with a jaunty beat have captured his imagination: Don’t let the devil steal your joy. That sentiment lightens his step as he walks to the Cannon House Office Building on his way to morning meetings. “I made up my mind that I’m not going to let anyone steal my sense of happiness or joy,” he says. So even when the nation is fighting a war he opposes and the president has cut a program he cherishes, he tries to keep an upbeat demeanor. Hopeful, if not happy.

“People have accused me of being too optimistic,” he says. “Not to be hopeful is to give up. If you believe that things are going to change, you have to make it come about. You cannot get lost in a sea of despair.” That is a good perspective for someone who is charged with raising the morale of the minority party. As senior chief deputy whip, third in line in party leadership, Lewis’s eternal optimism makes him the perfect standard-bearer for the Democrats, who have been out of power in the House since the Republican revolution of 1994.

Lewis unapologetically represents the liberal wing of the Democratic Party—the National Journal labeled him the third most liberal member of the House. But his life transcends his role as a lawmaker. He is a genuine American hero, a living symbol of the worst and greatest moments of a nation. “He has endured the test of time,” says the Reverend Jesse Jackson. “John has moral authority. He speaks with a moral resonance.” Read the full article


Water

Years of drought had Atlantans taking short showers and xeriscaping in the ’00s. If your grass was green, you’d better be using well water.

June 2008June 2008From April 2006 to May 2009, Georgia experienced record drought. Our June 2008 cover had a vertical flap partly covering a half-empty glass of water. The main line read “(H2Oh),” but when you lifted the flap, it said simply “Uh-Oh.” During this dry season, our writers expressed concern for natural resources like the Chattahoochee. Of Tanyard Creek, now alongside the northwest corridor of the BeltLine, we wrote, it was “as foul a body of water as you can find outside the ruins of Eastern Europe. It honors only the human capacity to soil our own nests.” In September 2006, we warned, “A retired federal scientist who had been involved in the water war declared: “You might run Atlanta dry, for damn sure.” We were less than patient with daily water shortages. We sulked about restrictions, making comments like these:

“Come late August, every Atlanta homeowner knows the feeling: Your lawn looks like a 5 o’clock shadow. Topsoil is a distant memory. So one night, you decide to unfurl the hose and start spraying, watering restrictions be damned. You know it’s ridiculous to feel like a wanted criminal just for sprinkling the roses, and yet the moment you see headlights, you drop that hose and whistle nonchalantly.” (August 2005)

“Atlantans are saving bathwater to flush their toilets and skulking around half dirty from curtailed showers.” (June 2008)

“At Lake Lanier’s lowest point, in December, only one boat ramp of about 100 actually reached the water. Boaters stopped coming. Boat sellers could no longer demo their products. Fishing guides were lucky to have more than two bookings in a month. Even picknickers lost interest, as rocky expanses separated the pavilions from the scenic blue.” (June 2008)


Weddings & Wontons

February 2005 told love stories from different generations, including the one below by Justin Heckert. Our first-ever guide to Buford Highway was a team effort in 2007. (Check out our 2019 Buford Highway tribute here.)

Guide to Buford Highway
October 2007

Buford Highway is not so much a melting pot as it is a unique stew of mixed-ethnicity neighborhoods and international businesses. Most big American cities, especially coastal ports, have large ethnic communities settled in pockets of distinct population—Chinatowns, Koreatowns, Little Italys, Little Havanas—built up over decades as settlers drew their own communities together into cores that shared a language and culture. Buford Highway is different. With the highest concentration of ethnic-owned businesses in the Southeastern United States, it is a jumble of cultural infusions. Northeast Plaza, one of the largest shopping centers on Buford Highway, houses Bangladeshi, Peruvian, and Ethiopian restaurants, as well as the giant Hispanic market, Mercado del Pueblo. Down the street, a plaza called “Little Saigon” is home to Dai Thành Acupuncture and Herbs as well as Taqueria Doña Maria. . . .

Cindy Xu was one of the early Pinetree tenants. A graduate of the Traditional Chinese Medical School in Guangzhou, China, Xu moved to Atlanta twenty years ago to study English at Georgia State University. But when Atlanta’s close-knit Chinese community began seeking her for medical advice, Xu decided to open her own herb shop. Within a year, Cindy’s Herbs was so successful that Zu expanded into the space next door.
“We have a very strong community here,” Xu says. “I was the first herb shop to open, and now there are more than 20!”

Some shopping centers still maintain their decades-old monikers; others embrace their target clientele with names such as Plaza Fiesta or Asian Square. Former fast food spots evolved into ethnic eateries; an Arby’s became Tofu House, a Taco Bell at I-285 became El Paisa, and a former Wendy’s is now Harue Cafe. . . . “So it goes on La Buford,” GSU professor Susan Walcott says. — Bill Warhop 

Bill and Doug Got Married
February 2005

Bill and Doug Got marriedIt 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. They had only three witnesses: a minister, the minister’s daughter, and a friend who would be taking photos. Bill was the best thing that ever happened to Doug, and vice versa. They stood and faced each other in front of a fake fireplace in Niagara Falls, Ontario, last July, in a brick chapel with a white awning painted with two blue hearts, one of the few places in the world where they were allowed to do what they were going to do; they held each other’s hand, looked into each other’s eyes, and said I do.

The wedding was about love, mostly. They were old now, and gray as seashells, and love was one of the only things of which they could be certain. Doug was 77, and his weak heart fluttered in the cage of his ailing chest. Bill, 73, had an arthritic left knee; he had stopped playing his beloved organ at church. They both had problems remembering things. They had begun to make arrangements to move into a retirement home and had learned they would not be able to live in the same room together. They were fighting the decision.

Wake up, my handsome man, Bill says to Doug on most mornings, looking across the bed to his companion.

Good morning—but I am not handsome, Doug replies.

Bill fetches him coffee: To me, you are, he says.

Two million, three hundred eighty-nine thousand, three hundred forty-four Georgians voted for Senate Resolution 595 in last November’s election, which equated to 76 percent of the vote. The amendment to the state constitution provided that Georgia would recognize marriage only as the union of a man and woman. Of course, neither Bill nor Doug is a woman. This means, barring a reversal of pervading beliefs, they will most likely never be allowed to marry in our state. — Justin Heckert  Read the full article


A Way With Words

One girl’s journey to the National Spelling Bee

A Way With WordsBy Justin Heckert | Originally published November 2003 and excerpted here:
It is time for her to spell and so she must stand before the microphone at the front of the stage and receive her word, but she does not know what it will be. She can only be certain that it will come from an unabridged dictionary as thick as a cinderblock, and she will have all of three minutes to spell it. She is 13 years old and her long hair is ink dark and falls as fine as thread over her shoulders. Athena Louise Medrana Lao, speller No. 167 in the 2003 Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee, springs from her seat wearing black pants and tennis shoes and a crisp white official bee polo shirt, headed for the center of the stage, one of only 12 spellers remaining. Her face is taut, revealing nothing to the Hyatt ballroom’s crowd, which has become a static of quiet conversation. Those in attendance who have watched her spell in previous rounds know her as the “girl who spells fast,” and it’s true. She spells with the speed of gas catching fire, leaving the embers of words in her wake. When she knows a word she does not hesitate and spells it without pause so that the individual letters collide into one another and it is at times difficult to even hear what she’s said, much less figure out if it’s correct. She doesn’t even breathe when she spells. This makes it difficult for the judges. They glare at her as she approaches.

She is by far the fastest speller out of an entire collection of 251 fast and knowledgeable spellers at this year’s bee. She is the fastest speller I have ever seen, and I have followed the bee through the years with a great desire, like a football fan counting the days to the Super Bowl. I’ve watched the national bee every year since ESPN began airing it in 1994. While growing up I would go with my parents to the state bees in St. Louis (my mother was a teacher and a spelling coach), and when I was a seventh-grader I had a brief run of my own as a speller. I still carry with me those years and the unfulfilled dream of winning. I have seen many great spellers and if you have asked me who is the best speller I’ve ever known, the best speller who I’ve met, my answer would be Athena Lao. . . . whose seventh-round word is “fichu”: A woman’s scarf of sheer white fabric in a triangular shape that is draped over the shoulders and fastened in front or worn to fill in a low neckline. It is of French origin, which makes it inherently tricky. With its long “e” sound at the beginning and discernible “oo” at the end and its “sh” in the middle (there is no “e” “sh” or “oo”), it falls into the category of two-syllable words that are as difficult as any with five or six.

From the start of this bee, the words have been difficult. By the end of the first day of competition they were grueling. Now, late in the afternoon on the second and final day, as the robotic TV camera crane’s long lens hovers above the stage, fussing over the trophy for the perfect close-up, the words have turned downright monstrous—cartoonish, humpbacked words with hairy arms dragging the floor, skulking through the darkest, most obscure alleys of language. Dr. Jacques A. Bailly, taking over in his first year as pronouncer for the late and beloved Dr. Alex Cameron (whose patient, monotone voice guided children through the national bee for years), reads them aloud—pruinose, trebuchet, klendusity, einkanter. Trying to spell them can be like throwing darts at a board, blindfolded, and Dr. Bailly even stumbles through a few of the pronunciations. Everyone who knows anything about spelling bees knows this, that what it all comes down to at the national level, especially at this point in the later rounds, is no matter how much time the spellers have devoted to the study and understanding of words over the course of this bee year—or over their bee lives, through grade school into the eighth grade if they’ve competed that long—it honestly doesn’t matter. It’s luck. The speller who knows the last word wins, and if he/she knows the last word that means he/she has seen it and remembers it. One word, plucked out of hundreds of thousands.

The one is fichu.

“Fee-shoo. Fi-shoo.”

Athena is a code, a sheet of braille; it is impossible to tell from her facial expressions what she is thinking. As I cross my fingers in the back of the audience, she says the word into the mic, to herself, again.

This has always been about words. Even before she devoted so much of her life to spell them. Before the national bee, when she won state and hoisted the tall trophy, before she lost in the regionals last year, and before she competed, for the very first time, in the school bee in fourth grade. This has been about words since Wilfredo and Generosa Lao decided to name their only child “Athena,” after Athens, Georgia, the town where they have lived for 15 years since moving from the Philippines, and after the Athena in Greek mythology, the goddess of wisdom.

This has always been about words, as it is now, two nights before the bee, as she drills and drills with her mother and father, who are her word coaches, and she knows this one as soon as she hears it: “Oh! Papa, I remember that!” she yells, and begins spelling even before Wilfredo—a slight man with skin the color of a polished cedar table who likes to go by “Fred”—has finished pronouncing.

“Anthropophagous.”

An-thro-pah-fuh-gus: man-eater, cannibal. She says it twice. She spells it correctly. And fast, like soda frothing out of a shaken can. Fred says nothing. He does not look up from the dictionary. His eyes are stones at the base of a mountain, immovable. He has not looked up from the dictionary for the past half-hour or so, sitting barefoot at the edge of his bed in a hotel room on the fourth floor of the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, D.C. He is merely one of the hundreds of parents going over words tonight with their children—some in their rooms as well, others sprawled out on the leather couches in the large lobby of the hotel—all doing whatever they can to be a little more prepared.

Athena’s mother, Gene, sits with her legs dangling off the other bed, her hair silk-thin and long like her daughter’s, squinting through a magnifying glass into the pages of a dictionary of her own, picking out words. There are three dictionaries in the room. There is the mammoth Merriam-Webster Third New World open in front of Gene (Athena won it after the state bee as part of her first-place prize, along with $1,400); a smaller Webster’s resting on the lap of her father, this one a school-issue with dull red binding; and a computerized version on a laptop on the dresser, which Athena will go to frequently because it is much quicker, and she can type a word in after clicking on the red circular dictionary icon and it will take her directly to it, providing lengthy definition, language of origin, and sentence. She is not in front of the computer right now. She is on the bed with her dad, her legs crossed Indian-style, eyes closed.

“Athena,” Fred Lao begins, “Cynegetic. Si-nu-je-tik.”

“Oh, um … let’s see,” Athena says, “Cynegetic. Si-na-ji-tic? Am I pronouncing it correctly? May I have a definition?”

“Of or relate-eeng to hunt-eeng,” he says in a tinny voice with pronounced accent, a combination of Tagalog and English, or, as her parents call it, “Taglish.” Athena does not speak her parents’ language, has never even been to their country, but her parents speak very good English. They have lived in the U.S. since the early eighties, and learned the language in their native Philippines. However, it is a distinctively different English, with a heavy raking of the tongue across the top of the mouth. Sometimes they frustrate Athena because they do not pronounce every word correctly. Not that they aren’t trying, but their accents are so thick that sometimes the process of pronouncing words to Athena becomes incredibly prolix, because they will stumble, sometimes pronouncing them three or four different ways, leaving their daughter confused. . . .

She does not proclaim to be the best speller in the state of Georgia. Even though she went through five bees to get to the 2003 national bee and survived as the champion of each one—classroom, school, county, regional, and state, in Atlanta at Georgia State University, where she spelled back and forth with a boy named Biplab for nearly an hour until he tripped on “mucilaginous,” then she spelled it and “incienso” to win—it is her nature to brush praise aside. It is not that she doesn’t think she is a talented speller, or a rigidly dedicated speller. She is and she knows it. Last year, for example, when she fell in the regionals, she told her parents immediately afterward that she “had embarrassed” herself, that she would be back, that she not only wanted to make it to state after winning the regionals but she wanted to devote much more of her time to studying, she wanted to get serious, so that she could make it to the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee. She went home and immediately started writing down new words.

So began this quest, and her dad, a statistics tutor, made his commitment to stay up late with her, sometimes until 2 a.m. on a school night in their Athens apartment, belting out words from advanced word lists, the dictionary, and the most recent version of Paideia, the annual official word book of the Scripps Howard bee that features more than 3,700 words grouped into 27 categories that are used in the local and state bees. For the “serious speller,” one who has made it an important part of their life, up there with family and school and whatever other hobbies they might be interested in, the little booklet is the equivalent of a seminarian’s personal Bible.

She listened to the online version of Paideia before the print version came out, wrote down the words and tried to memorize them, with the help of her mother; then she went through the booklet until it was tattered and bare. As much as she studied, up to eight pages a day sometimes and four or five hours, she was not an outsider at Clarke Middle School, maintaining an array of interests and activities. Athena is a seventh-grader with an imagination in constant motion; her ideas fly—she can be thinking about something and then blast off mid-thought to somewhere entirely different, a rocket headed for space. Like most girls her age, she wears her adolescent emotions like loose collars around her neck. One minute she’ll be feeling happy and the next sad, she says. She is not that much different from anyone else, except for one thing that her teachers and parents and friends and even she points out: She has an insatiable desire to succeed at whatever she does so she can tell herself that she is not a lazy person. To be happy, she must succeed at everything. A lazy person does not, she says. Her life is based around certain goals, and when she meets those goals, when her time and dedication have paid off and she can see the results of her venture, she feels most satisfied. . . .

At the national bee in Washington, she is “the girl who spells fast.” Except for that defining characteristic there are hundreds like her, different enough in intellect that some might be considered outsiders back home.

They’re everywhere. They are racing down the escalators, shoes thumping the steps the way a soft breeze hits a window; they are in the lobby, bouncing words back and forth, preparing. They are dancing The Hokey-Pokey at the bee barbecue with soda stains on their shirts; they are jumping and running through the marble hallways of the Hyatt, shouting at one another, playing card games, signing each other’s bee week guides, a tradition. They are meeting each other and becoming friends, promising to email. They are outside, floating like balloons let go on the streets of Washington. They are in green bee shirts and blue jeans, hats and glasses and braces. Their faces are covered in red bulbs of acne and darkened by the shadows of a nascent mustache. They are with their mothers, their fathers, their mothers and fathers and grandparents. They are tall and skinny and short and pudgy. They are sniffling with cold. They are from Jamaica and Alaska, New Jersey and Missouri and California. . . .

I shut my eyes when her first word was pronounced. “Sgraffito.” I did not look; I could not look. Dr. Bailly pronounced it once, then, as he was preparing to pronounce it again, she broke him off and pronounced it herself, then started to spell. “Sgraffito,” she said “zgruh-fee-toe,” with the confidence of a doctor who has just come out of a successful surgery. Then she spelled it, the letters snapping like clusters of light, then pronouncing it again, and we held back our applause, the whole audience, because we did not know if she spelled it correctly. Her mother did. She looked at me and winked.

Her second word, after she took the written test at the end of the first day and scored a 20 out of 25 to advance, was “gorgonzola.” Zoe had pleaded with Athena then to slow down … to just spell normally, so that if she had to lodge a protest she could hear her spell … and after “gorgonzola” was pronounced, Athena paused for about three seconds. Then she looked at the judges, and asked, “Gorgonzola?” I did not think she knew; I thought she would go down right there on this easy, but sometimes tricky, word. She asked for a definition. We were silent, waiting. Then she spelled it. She went a bit slower, but still fast, and it was … g-o-r-g-o-n-z-o-l-a, gorgonzola … correct. The applause came. It was over. She sat back down. And relief—relief was the first drink of water after crawling on our hands through the desert.

But that was it. It had been a good trip. That’s what I was thinking because her third word was “neuromyelitis.” She pronounced the word, questioningly. Then she broke into spelling it like a dam burst and the words were water pouring through, and then she waited, as a short applause broke out, then stopped; the judges looked at each other and said nothing. Neu-ro-my-el-i-tis. We did not know; we could not be certain if she was right. Athena stood onstage and looked confused. One of the judges spoke into the mic: “We are going to need that one played over again, because you went so rapidly,” she said. Zoe looked terrified; Athena’s mother mouthed “She got it correct,” and her dad said nothing.

“I’m sorry,” Athena said.

The tape was replayed, the spelling slowed down. A brief moment of silence, and then the same judge spoke: “Please slow down next time,” she said.

Next time. . . next time! . . .

“Fi-shoo?” she asks. The judges nod and answer. Yes.

“Thank you,” Athena replies. “Ummm … fisshoo. Is it fitch-oo or fish-oo?”

She is having trouble. She is one of 12 spellers remaining. There are so few of them on stage. We do not breathe, we do not move our eyes. Time does not pass, and yet it seems she’s been up there for a day. . . . “Can you repeat the definition?” she asks. “Fishew, Fishoo.” Then:

“F -”

“i -”

“c -”

“h -”

“o -”

“u”

“Fichou.”

Silence.

The bell dings. It is the worst noise. It is a fire alarm; it is a thousand fingernails over a chalkboard. There is a pause and it dings and she finds out that she has given the word an “o,” an “o” that it does not have between the “h” and the “u.”

She was close. So close.

We stand. We applaud and do not stop. But she is off the stage and her mother is up from her seat and I have been reduced to one of the hundreds of onlookers in the ballroom. They are going to the consolation room, where afterward I find out that she cried briefly, while her mother held her.

After she was interviewed by a television crew in the D.C. area and went onstage to touch the trophy and congratulate Sai Gunturi, the 2003 winner who spelled “pococurante,” which means “indifferent, unconcerned,” she went to eat dinner and then came back to play Beethoven on the piano for a group of her fellow spellers until about 1 a.m. in the lobby; she called her friends, and her principal at his house, and said she was sorry she did not represent the school better by winning. . . .

We are all sitting in a restaurant in Athens nearly a month after the bee, and Athena is talking about what the eighth grade holds for Athena Lao, about her plans, already, when the conversation, as always, turns to words. She mentions she has not watched much TV since the bee but instead has been scanning the online dictionary, has been reading her word lists. I do not ask if she thinks about the national bee anymore.

“When we go home,” her mother says, “They’ll no doubt open the dictionary again.”

There is no reason to ask why.

I already know. 


The Survivors

Staff writer Chandra Thomas won Journalist of the Year honors from the National Association of Black Journalists for these two stories of overcoming adversity.

“Why is Genarlow Wilson in Prison?”
January 2006

Thomas was among the first journalists to write about the plight of 17-year-old Genarlow Wilson, who refused to take a plea bargain and was given a mandatory, 10-year prison sentence for having consensual oral sex with a classmate. The year after he was sentenced, the Georgia General Assembly changed the law, downgrading such acts to misdemeanors but declining to apply the law retroactively to Wilson. He was finally freed in 2007 after two years in prison, and graduated from Morehouse in 2013—with President Barack Obama as the commencement speaker.

After Christmas holiday break, on the first day of the second semester of his long-awaited senior year, Genarlow Wilson’s charmed life came to a screeching halt. The football player and track star, homecoming king, and honor-roll student was met by sheriff’s deputies in his Douglas County High classroom. Genarlow [was] marched in handcuffs through the same hallways that had been filled with happy memories. It all seemed surreal. . . .

In Georgia, sex, including oral sex, with anyone under the age of 16 can be classified as aggravated child molestation—even if it occurs between two teens less than three years apart in age, as in the instance of 17-year-old Genarlow and 15-year-old Tracy. In fact, under Georgia law, the penalty is actually more severe for a person found guilty of engaging in oral sex with a minor than for having intercourse (which is classified as misdemeanor statutory rape), even if the perpetrator is just a few years old than the minor.

[Refusing a plea deal,] he said, “Even after serving time in prison, I would have to register as a sex offender for the rest of my life. It’s a lifelong sentence in itself. I am not a child molester.”

Exiled“Exiled”
September 2006
A year after Hurricane Katrina obliterated Thomas’s hometown, she gathered 11 stories from among the estimated 40,000 men, women, and children who flocked to metro Atlanta.

When word of Hurricane Katrina surfaced, it was the urging of his wife, Stephanie, that led [artist and art teacher Terrance Osborne] to load their children, Terrance Jr., 12, Seth, 5, and Sydni, 3, into their minivan to head out of town. “At first, I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t really feel like packing up paintings, but she was really scared about this one,” says Terrance. They packed a few days’ clothes, some important papers, and a commission that Terrance was working on, then set off on the five-hour drive toward Stephanie’s relatives in Alexandria, Louisiana. By the time they arrived, the small home was overcrowded with other kin who had fled there, so they had to move on to plan B: Dallas. . . . “I didn’t worry until I saw the water covering the city,” says Terrance of the compelling television footage they watched from their hotel room. “I was shocked. Then, I realized that everything we owned was in that van.”

Explore more decades

This article appears in our January 2021 issue.

60 years of covering Atlanta: The 1990s

Atlanta Magazine February 1995
February 1995 This Gen X–heavy “Jobs” issue describes an early iteration of the gig economy.

For our January 2021 issue, in honor of our 60th anniversary year, we dug through our archives to present a snapshot of the magazine during each of our six decades. We discovered groundbreaking work, inspiring stories, and, yes, some errors in judgement. Here’s what we found:

The ’90s in 5 Scenes

A dig through our archives unearthed a cinematic rendering of Georgia just before the turn of the millennium

“The X-Files: Generation Xers aren’t so much breaking the old rules as making their own”
February 1995

Ten years ago, I had a list of what I wanted to be when I grew up: VP of Some Great Company, owner of a summer home, award-winning, brilliant copywriter, and maybe even married woman with husband in tow. . . .

A year ago, I found myself saying, “Would you like a lime with that?” and I wasn’t throwing a dinner party. Atlanta had a job for me alright, but I was wearing a uniform. I wasn’t VP of anything except the “Will I make rent this month?” club. . . .

Ah, to be in your 20s in the ’90s. I overheard someone say the other day, “Generation X makes me glad we’re nearing the end of the alphabet.” Walk a mile in my shoes, pal. Slackers. Misdirected. Misaligned. That’s what they say. Truthfully, we’ve been misinformed. . . .

Let go of the idea that you’re going to move to Atlanta and ease into some big fat job. It’s not going to happen. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make a living doing what you’re good at. You’re proactive or you perish in the ’90s Atlanta.

Running with the Red Dogs January 1990“Running With the Red Dogs”
January 1990

Red Dogs wear black fatigues, heavy black nylon boots and black military-style web gear that runs over their shoulders like suspenders. Ammunition pouches, flashlights, a radio transmitter, steel and plastic handcuffs . . . and other accessories dangle from the webbing. . . .

Joe Little and Ken Allen are dressed for battle—some futuristic urban cataclysm out of The Terminator or Blade Runner. . . .

Their first stop is Hilltop Circle, a street winding around the Vine City housing project. As Allen and Little check garbage dumpsters, a favorite hiding place for drug dealers, a man in black jeans and a Miller High Life jacket darts out and races behind one of the apartment buildings. Moments later, he is sprawled face down in a patch of weeds. Allen, kneeling, holds the man in a wristlock while he pats him down for weapons. . . . .

The Red Dogs release the man with a warning to stay out of the housing project. . . . As we head back to the police car, a little boy who has been watching the encounter runs up cradling a toy Uzi machine gun. “I got a gun too,” he chortles.

—For this story, the writer spent three shifts riding with the APD’s then two-year-old (and already notorious) tactical unit. The story’s intro observes: “Red Dog tactics make civil libertarians queasy, but thus far, no complaints of brutality or mistreatment have been sustained.” More than two decades later, following the 2009 illegal raid at gay bar the Atlanta Eagle, the Red Dogs would be disbanded.

“AIDS: Small Town, Big Problem”
November 1990

On a bright summer’s evening in Albany, Ga., eight people are gathered at a plank table outside Picnic Pizza Numero Uno on Slappey Boulevard, bent over their lasagna and chicken parmigiana. Three of them—a sunburned, pickup truck–driving horticulturist named Randall, a 31-year-old unemployed Black man named Kenneth Ray Lee, and a bearded logger named David—are in various stages of AIDS infection that will likely kill them in the next few years. . . .

Randall, a gentle, sad-eyed man who describes himself as “living in Tifton, with a redneck accent, redneck ideas,” says he recently mustered enough courage to write an unsigned letter to the editor of the Tifton Gazette, asking for understanding for AIDS victims. (“Nobody wants to talk about it. Nobody wants to see it.”) Newspaper policy required that he submit his full name, even on an “unsigned” letter. He did—and the newspaper printed the letter—with Randall’s full name below it. “I panicked,” says the 6’8” Randall. “I thought I’d lose my job.” Thus far, the reaction has been mixed. His boss, a “pecan expert” at the University of Georgia, was sympathetic but puzzled. He’d assumed his towering “gimme cap”–wearing employee was straight. . . .

“I don’t like that term gay,” he adds. “This is not a happy lifestyle. I am what I am—a farm boy from rural Georgia. I’d like to think I’m not that different from anybody else.”

April 1997“Bringin’ in Da Funk, Bringin’ in Da Money”
April 1997

It was just a little birthday party. Just a little soiree at the house, for 300 or so of Antonio Reid’s closest friends, . . . one of the most impressive bashes Atlanta has seen in years, a private gathering at a suburban mansion that revealed and typified both the style and reach of Atlanta’s thriving Black music scene.

Some of the best-known young African Americans in entertainment, from Queen Latifah to Toni Braxton . . . mingled with stylish, upwardly mobile partygoers who could have been dress extras for Waiting to Exhale. The fashion came from HollyHood, the Atlanta hip-hop clothing shop owned by Sandi “Pepa” Denton, of Salt-N-Pepa, and also leaned heavily to Versace, Donna Karan, Dolce & Gabbana.

Inside an enormous tent, a martini bar offered a menu of specialties: chefs sauteed scallops and veal to order; guests plucked strawberries from a life-sized “palm tree” made of fresh fruit. Vanilla-scented candles flickered on the tables. . . .

As a beaming Reid, in a white Versace suit, escorted fashion-plate solo artist Toni Braxton . . . through the crowd, the evening took on the air of a wedding thrown by a prosperous father eager to show how far the family had come. And in a way, that’s what it was. Reid put Atlanta on the R&B map when he and partner Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds started their label, LaFace, here in 1989. Since then the scene has exploded. . . . Earlier this year, as testament to the city’s strength as a music mecca, Black artists with local connections received a total of 22 Grammy nominations, taking home six. . . .

Atlanta entertainment lawyer Joel Katz conservatively estimates local music industry revenues (of all types, including concerts) at more than $500 million a year. The worth of LaFace alone is estimated at more than $250 million. “No CEO knows the money generated by these young guys,” said Mayor Bill Campbell, at a party for wunderkind producer Jermaine Dupri.

March 1993“Marla on the Mend”
March 1993

Marla Maples sits at a corner table at the Ritz Carlton’s Jockey Club, across from Central Park. It is late afternoon. The elegant dining room is hushed, almost empty. Maples is stealing a private moment away from the jostling crowds, the endless gossip, the exhausting demands of The Will Rogers Follies, the Broadway musical she’s appeared in since last August. She’s struggling to adjust to a life without the tumult and extravagant madness of Donald Trump, trying, she hopes, to heal her wounds. . . .

Trump devoured Maples as surely as he swallowed Atlantic City and much of Manhattan. And, for too long and, seemingly, too little, Marla Maples let him do it, enjoyed his plunder. She was, after all, a 24-year-old from Dalton, Ga., wooed before envious millions by an elegant, airborne Croesus. Now, months after what may have been still another final breakup, Maples says she is trying to free herself, as Ivana did, from Trump’s tangled webs. It will not be easy. There are still volatile feelings between the two. At the beginning of the year, Trump, rebounding from years of financial woes, was reportedly pursuing Maples again. Rumors of marriage were swirling in New York on Super Bowl weekend. “I’m fighting to have my own soul,” insisted Maples, “to stay on my own path.”

Presumed Guilty
December 1996

On October 28, Richard Jewell made perhaps his last run through the media gauntlet when he walked with his lawyers into a roomful of reporters gathered at a hotel conference room in north Atlanta. “The public trial in the media of Richard Jewell is over, and the verdict is not guilty,” said Lin Wood, a lawyer who will handle the civil suits Jewell intends to file.

“We’re glad the emperor has finally admitted he has no clothes,” added Watson Bryant [an attorney and friend of Jewell]. When asked if he was disappointed the FBI had offered no apology, Bryant paused and smiled ruefully. “They don’t have the guts to apologize,” he responded. . . . “There was not one bit of evidence, and look at what they did to him. It’s unbelievable. This investigation was like a freight train; once it got started, it wouldn’t stop.”

Moments later, dressed in slacks and a cream-colored dress shirt with blue stripes, Jewell stood up and at last addressed the very same cameras that had stalked him for three months. “This is the first time I have ever asked you to turn the cameras on me,” he said. “You know my name, but you do not really know who I am. . . . For 88 days, I lived a nightmare. . . . I felt like a hunted animal followed constantly, waiting to be killed. . . . In their mad rush to fulfill their own personal agendas, the FBI and the media almost destroyed me and my mother. . . .”

Before he concluded, Richard Jewell put down his prepared statement. He paused for a moment and then looked directly at the cameras. His voice turned strong, as though it was resonating for the very first time.

“I am an innocent man,” he said.


This Old House

In the middle of Buckhead’s glitz, Bacchanalia serves great low-tech food in a quaint Tudor cottage

Bacchanalia August 1993
Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison

By Christiane Lauterbach | August 1993

Twenty-eight years ago, our restaurant critic (who’s our critic today!) reviewed a charming little restaurant that stood in stark contrast to the dining scene’s bombastic glam. She wisely concluded—be sure to read to the end—that this restaurant would have significant staying power. It also would redefine the nature of fine-dining in Atlanta and beyond and, later, shift the center of culinary gravity away from Buckhead to Atlanta’s Westside. Read the review


Obsession

No story in Atlanta history has created as much controversy as the case of the so-called missing murdered children.

Obsession August 1998By Jeff Prugh | Originally published August 1998 and excerpted here:

Editor’s note: Speculation about the guilt of Wayne Williams has not waned in the 23 years since Atlanta published this story by a journalist who’d been convinced early on that the case against Williams was flawed. In 2019, after a recent hit podcast and HBO docuseries about the Atlanta Child Murders, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced that police would attempt to retest evidence tied to some of the killings attributed to Williams—but for which he was never prosecuted.

There are those who contend that Wayne Williams, convicted in the deaths of two adults on the list of 29 victims, was responsible for all the killings. Nearly two decades later, serious new legal questions have been raised about the quality of justice in the case against Williams. Throughout the saga, one journalist has insisted something went terribly wrong in the case. This is his story.

I remember first the headlines, which began stacking up on my desk while I was away on assignment, yet which resound to this day like screams in the night. I remember, too, the photos of the kids—with names like Yusuf and Jeffery, Angel and Cristopher, LaTonya and Clifford—whose eerie disappearances and deaths seemed to cry out for attention I was too busy to give. Too busy shuttling between Miami and Key West, writing for the Los Angeles Times about the Liberty City riots and the Cuban boat lift and their aftershocks. . . . None of us could have imagined back then that metro Atlanta and the “city too busy to hate” would soon become traumatized by some of the worst crimes of this century, if not the South’s most agonizing murder cases since the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. . . .

Here is a saga that would consume me and bushwhack my career in newspapering, yet more significantly put heat on Atlanta’s police, our judicial system, our news media, while shedding extraordinary light on how they too often fail us—more than a decade before the police and the media reminded us of their fallibility in the case of Atlanta’s own Richard Jewell, the target of a media firestorm as a suspect who was later cleared in the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in 1996. Here I was—a transplant from California, a refugee from the sports beat—pounding the streets when I wasn’t pounding a typewriter, seeking answers from authorities, but getting mostly illogic and sham. . . . Here I was, brimming with enough cynicism to fill the Omni, burning enough bridges to make General Sherman look like a piker, my journalism career in flames when the Times moved its Atlanta bureau to Miami and I chose to stay in Atlanta to pursue this story that to me is bigger than any individual, any career, any newspaper, any jury’s verdict. . . .

I forged friendships with two guys who had happened to be grilled by police as murder suspects within five weeks of each other during the spring of 1981. The first, an iconoclastic ex-cop named Chet Dettlinger (now an attorney), who investigated the cases on his own after police rejected his and three erstwhile colleagues’ offer to help. He had already asked me to help him start work on The List (a book on the cases, published locally in 1984) when authorities called him in, ludicrously, and asked him questions Chet said they couldn’t answer. The second: Wayne Williams, once a freelance TV cameraman and would-be Berry Gordy–esque pop-music promoter, still the only person convicted in any of those 29 killings that made up metro Atlanta’s “missing and murdered” cases between mid-1979 and mid-1981. Today, at 40, Wayne Williams has waged an interminable appeal for habeas corpus relief and freedom from consecutive life sentences. . . .

Consider that the state ambushed Williams and his trial attorneys, in their opinion, by persuading the judge to allow into evidence 10 so-called “pattern” victims, meaning he had to defend himself, in effect, against 12 murders, not two, and that exculpatory statements to authorities point to stronger suspects than Williams—suspects the police and FBI knew about, but the jury did not. . . . As Williams said in prison, where he corresponded with at least one victim’s mother and enlisted my help while he writes what he hopes will be his autobiography, “More than anything else, I want the truth to come out.” I couldn’t hope to find the truth in the herd instincts of the media, which, for the most part, marched in lockstep with the authorities, wolfing down handouts without bothering to examine what they were being fed. . . . To my amazement, I would find much of the truth suppressed by police for years in a four-inch-thick file on 12-year-old Clifford Jones. . . . Of the 29 murder cases that authorities assigned to their so-called official list of victims, Clifford’s cries out loudest. . . .

Six months after Clifford Jones’s killing, I received a tip that the investigation was in shambles. I decided to call Chet Dettlinger to compare notes. As Atlanta overdosed on headlines that screamed ANOTHER BODY FOUND, and TV newscasts began, “It’s 11 o’clock, and there’s a curfew. . . . Do you know where your children are?” we met over breakfast at a Howard Johnson’s coffee shop in Sandy Springs. . . . Unfurling his map across the table, [he] position[ed] salt and pepper shakers to symbolize victims, matching them with numbers on squiggly lines that represented major streets. . . . In a lower corner of Chet’s map, I noticed a list of unfamiliar names. “Who are these people?” I asked. “They’re murdered people, too.” “Children?” “Children and adults.” Now, their names, too, fell on me like a ton of bricks. Now, I sensed that Atlanta’s nightmare was worse than what our public officials were telling us. “But what about the task force list?” I asked. “Screw the list!” he said. “It’s arbitrary. It has no parameters. Nobody knows how big our problem is. Nobody knows when it began, and we may never know if it ends. . . .”

My research shows that the murders of young Atlanta Blacks did not stop when Wayne Williams went to jail 17 summers ago. These kinds of murders that authorities attributed to Williams or assigned to their list of 29 never stop. The truth is, the police stopped counting—and the press stopped reporting. Nothing, however, symbolized the missteps, the mix-ups, the misinformation more than “the list.” By putting some victims on it—and leaving many others off—almost on a whim, without valid parameters, then Public Safety Commissioner Lee P. Brown, now mayor of Houston, created a monster. Brown’s office would not respond to Atlanta magazine’s repeated calls for comment. If Brown didn’t assign a victim’s case to the list—its victims Black, eventually ranging in age from 7 to 28, all but six of them juveniles, all but two of them males—that victim became nonexistent to most of the media and the masses. The list, then, blocked down from view not only dozens more killings of children and young adults but the excruciating reality that, for all those terrifying headlines and crime scenes on the 11 o’clock news, Atlanta’s problem was much worse. . . .

October 1981: As Wayne Williams awaits his trial, my home telephone rings late at night with a call from Chet, who had accepted an invitation to join the defense team. “Jeff,” he says, “I’m looking at part of a police file on Clifford Jones’s case. It turns out they had an eyewitness—and a much stronger suspect—in Clifford’s case than they’ve got in the two cases that Wayne will be tried for.” “What a story!” I blurt out. And what an introduction to the other suspect, Jamie Brooks, a 29-year-old Black man who managed the coin laundry at the Hollywood Plaza shopping strip. . . . There, Clifford Jones’s body had been found, wrapped in plastic, beside a Dumpster during the predawn of August 21, 1980. There, too, Jamie Brooks denied having anything to do with Clifford’s death, but showed “indications of emotional disturbances” when answering “no” to incriminating questions on a polygraph test. On November 1, a 19-year-old witness named Freddie Cosby is interviewed by a GBI agent identified in documents as R. Simmons. Excerpts:

Simmons: Freddie, when they took the little boy in the back room, what did they do to him?

Cosby: They got him in the butt. They made him lay on the bed. Jamie and Calvin [Smith] got him in the butt. . . .

Simmons: Freddie, when they were getting the little boy in the butt, was he crying or saying anything?

Cosby: Yes, he was crying and saying that he wanted to go home; he was hollering real loud.

Simmons: Freddie, what did they do to the little boy when he started crying real loud?

Cosby: . . . Jamie put a rope around the little boy’s neck and pulled on the rope.

Simmons: . . . Freddie, did Calvin or Jamie say, ‘The little boy’s dead’?

Cosby: They both said it. Jamie and Calvin both said that the little boy was dead.

Police would make no arrests in this case. Ultimately, police would close Clifford’s case, attributing his death to Wayne Williams, based on “fiber evidence,” even though Williams’ name appears nowhere in the investigative file. Jamie Brooks died in 1987 of complications from AIDS. The whereabouts of Calvin Smith are unknown. . . .

In 1986 . . . I would swear out an affidavit in support of a citizen’s complaint stating that Clifford Jones’s investigative file had been unlawfully withheld in defiance of the Georgia Open Records Act. Within days after the file had been released by court order, then WSB-TV reporter Bob Sirkin interviewed veteran homicide detective Sidney Dorsey ([later] DeKalb County sheriff), who had worked Clifford’s case and others for the Atlanta police. On camera, Dorsey says Jamie Brooks—not Wayne Williams—is the best suspect in the Jones case.

Sirkin: It is your belief—is it not?—that James Edward Brooks killed Clifford Jones.

Dorsey: I haven’t seen anything that has changed my mind as yet.

Sirkin: What would you like to see done with this case? What should be done with it?

Dorsey: I’d like to see it reopened.

Just like that, Dorsey was demoted. WSB-TV took Sirkin off the story after he had rolled out more stories based on the newly released files—the station was pressured, he says, by the offices of the Fulton County district attorney and Atlanta’s public safety commissioner. . . .

One of the very few Black voices to raise hell remains that of Camille Bell, who long ago marched on City Hall with some victims’ parents, demanding action after her nine-year-old son, Yusuf, was found slain in November 1979. She recently sat down for the NBC telecast I worked on. “I’m truly ashamed of the Black people involved—the Black mayor, the Black police chief, the Black judge,” said Bell, who now lives in New England and whose son’s death also is officially attributed to Williams. “Sometimes power, position, greed, wanting somebody, is more important than poor people. This is the first time I’ve ever witnessed Black people doing it to Black people.” . . .

Nobody, in my opinion, got justice. . . . Not Eunice and Emmanuel Jones, Clifford’s mother and brother. Not Camille Bell and the other parents of victims whose cases are attributed to Wayne Williams or remain open. Not Wayne Williams, his father, Homer, now 84, or his mother, Faye, now deceased. Not Chet Dettlinger, his teaching job in the University of Georgia system abolished in 1981 after he was questioned as a suspect, one month before Wayne Williams would be stopped near the bridge. Not the people of metro Atlanta, whose leaders and institutions they trusted must be held accountable for the kinds of betrayals that nobody deserves. Not I. Could any of us really let go of all this? Could any of us really walk away—after one year, after 10 years, after 17 years, after eternity?


A Plague of Politics

Plague of Politics May 1994By Vincent Coppola | May 1994

The Centers for Disease Control has been reinvented. Once, it was home to a vigorous little band of independent-minded researchers who expanded the agency from a World War II malaria control operation into a potent strike force designed to track down and eradicate infectious disease anywhere on earth. But that was before CDC itself came under the microscope of politics, before it had a billion-dollar budget, before politicians and engineers decided to redefine what constitutes infectious disease, before social agendas were given more attention than social diseases. Read the article

Five years after we published “A Plague of Politics,” we ran another feature story about the CDC—this one focused on the likelihood of a pandemic reaching America. Here is a brief excerpt from that 1999 story.

“At War With an Invisible Army”
April 1999

C.J. Peters has a vision of how the human race will be wiped out. What he sees in his visions—in his nightmares—are viruses, the kind you read about in the tabloids and the New York Times, the kind that drive the plots of movie thrillers and fill nightly newscasts. Peters, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Special Pathogens branch, has spent three decades hunting down viruses in remote corners of the world. . . .

Peters’ vision is driven by decades of experience and education at the frontlines of high-tech battles against microscopic killers, but his fears reflect our own. Baby boomers grew up fearing nuclear holocaust; today’s generation faces a new terror—bugs, not bombs. Kids today don’t face air raid drills, but they wash with antibacterial soap and learn about the risks of dirty needles and contaminated saliva as early as first grade. . . .

Peters says the unleashing of a pandemic could come not so much from deliberate terrorism, but eventual evolution, the right factors of an equation line up. . . .

Peters, however, is not a despairing man. . . . Unimagined medical breakthroughs have kept us furlongs ahead in the race for survival. But there is a lesson here: . . . We too must keep pulling the lever, struggling to evolve not just beyond the microbes, but beyond our own destructive nature. In that, says Peters, there is hope.

“We’re not going to cure death, but the effort we put into fighting it off, and the reverence we place on the value of every human life, says more about us as a species than anything else I can think of.”

Explore more decades

This article appears in our January 2021 issue.

60 years of covering Atlanta: The 1980s

Atlanta magazine November 1980
November 1980: This decade didn’t produce our best covers.

For our January 2021 issue, in honor of our 60th anniversary year, we dug through our archives to present a snapshot of the magazine during each of our six decades. We discovered groundbreaking work, inspiring stories, and, yes, some errors in judgement. Here’s what we found:

The ’80s in 5 Quotes

The decade of big hair and big schemes

“The Reel South”
May 1987

“The state government plays a crucial role in how Georgia will succeed as a film center. I think the state really has to sell what it has. Let the production industry they want to attract know that there is a welcome mat out, that there’s governmental structure supporting their needs, and that it is friendly to them.” —Ed Spivia, the first head of the Georgia Film Commission

The Party's Over October 1987The Party’s Over
October 1987

[AIDS] is threatening the nonstop party that has been underway in Atlanta for the past 20 years. The lines may be as long as ever outside the Buckhead bars, and the after-hours action as frantic, but the last thought after the last drink on the couch is no longer, “Will he respect me in the morning?”

“In the past, your pride was hurt,” says Donna. “Now, you can die. . . . It’s not that my morality has changed. My dread of the A-word has increased.”

AIDS—acquired immune deficiency syndrome—is a disease that reaches beyond its victims. It has created a new medial category, the worried well, who suffer from a new syndrome: ’FRAIDS.”

“Point Counterpoint: Two Paychecks—or Dinner at Six?”
March 1980

Who wants an argument? Not me, I think if women want to work, they should work. If they want to be paid fairly for their work, they should be paid fairly. If they want to have arguments with their husbands because they’re never at home and the old man’s dinner is always cold as bait, they should be able to do that.

“Saving the Chattahoochee”
September 1984

“I have lived along this river for 20 years and have seen many changes take place. I grew up playing in clear creeks and forested areas; now, these creeks are the true color of Georgia red clay, and the forests are apartments and shopping centers. Every child needs to have the chance to play like Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, and Becky Thatcher. . . . But we are rapidly losing that opportunity. The Earth is the Lord’s, on loan to us. Let’s not destroy it.” —Biologist Allison Winter, testifying before the U.S. Senate on behalf of the Georgia Conservancy and the Chattahoochee River Coalition

“Cable News Network”
July 1980

There is a line one hears repeatedly in the inner enclaves of Ted Turner’s empire: “Whatever Turner wants, Turner gets.” It is half ironic and half dead-serious, a reflection of the awe and terror and occasional comic relief the man inspires. Sloe-eyed, willful, alternately charming and petulant, Turner is one of those figures who looms larger than life. He has the wealth and the power and the single-mindedness to conceive projects which would make more ordinary mortals shudder in disbelief.


We got it right

Sometimes we made (mostly) the right call

“Hindsight: Atlanta’s skeletons—out of the closet?”
April 1988

In 1988, Atlanta was preparing to host the Democratic National Convention. Bill Shipp wrote his monthly column about potential sources of embarrassment. He first called for removing statues of Tom Watson, the “father of rural free-delivery mail service” who also inspired the lynching of Leo Frank, and General John B. Gordon, former governor and U.S. senator but also leader of the Ku Klux Klan—both of which then stood at the Capitol. Also, the DNC had already expressed outrage over the state flag, which then incorporated the Confederate battle flag. Since then, Georgia has adopted a new flag, and Watson’s statue has been moved. But as recently as last summer, Gordon’s descendants were still asking Governor Kemp to remove their ancestor’s statue. In a less perceptive moment, Shipp also expressed embarrassment over Jimmy Carter, and that’s where history has proved the columnist wrong. He did concede, “Some political scientists contend that merciful time has rehabilitated Jimmy Carter’s presidency.”

“The Resurrection of Midtown”
March 1981

Midtown is Atlanta’s truly urban neighborhood. It is not homogenized or carefully planned or even charming. It is an unorganized concoction of grand old homes, modest dwellings, of small shops and new towering office buildings, of dilapidation and renovation, of wide avenues and narrow streets. Its people are as diverse as its appearance; its history one of middle-class respectability and notorious disrepute. Best of all, it has a future. —Judith Schonbak


We got it wrong

And a couple of cringe-worthy cover stories

March 1985
Cheney House in Marietta

Still Not Gone
March 1985

In March 1985, our cover story was “Atlanta’s Civil War Heritage: A Four-Part Special,” with Rhett and Scarlett lookalike models. The package included a story on reenacting the Battle of Jonesboro, a primer on the battle of Atlanta, tips on collecting Civil War relics, and a wedding with women in hoop skirts and men in full Confederate and Union uniforms, beneath a ragged Confederate flag.

Hot or Not?
April 1989

In April 1989, we featured “hot” Atlantans, starting with our cover model Kim Basinger. Others on our list: Dr. Johnetta B. Cole (then new at Spelman), Paul Coverdell, folk artist Howard Finster, Dr. Louis W. Sullivan, R.E.M., Andrew Young. Sure, some of these people are admirable, but hot?


Cash Crops

The domestic pot trade in Georgia has increased recently both in terms of amounts grown and revenues generated.

By Michael Malloy | Originally published in April 1981 and excerpted here:

It is a blisteringly hot South Georgia afternoon in late August. The four-wheel-drive Scout hammers us along some unnamed Down Home County dirt road. We are hubcap deep in pulverized red clay, and the crimson dust is so thick it’s making the gnats cough.

The Scout is being driven by Pete Thomas, a reconstructed good ol’ boy who is current chairman of the Down Home County Businessmen’s Alliance, a sort of rural chamber of commerce. He is in his late 30s, white, married, and a political conservative. His two teenage children attend a private, church-affiliated school.

Pete is also a True Believer in the free enterprise system and owns a small chain of dry-cleaning stores in a three-county area around and including Down Home County.

In addition to his income as a small businessman, Pete earns a substantial amount of money each year working as a commodities broker—or more precisely, a commodity broker. He handles the marketing of one crop grown in Down Home County: marijuana. Pete’s brokering helps keep Atlantans who smoke pot sufficiently stoned. . . .

Two miles and 20 minutes later we lurch to the top of a small rise. . . . “There she blows!” Pete whoops.

We get out of the Scout and walk in the garden. While Pete checks a plant here, pulls a weed there, I stroll among the plants and marvel at the busy, maturing kolas (tops). The buds are reddish-brown with tiny flecks of purple and an overall light-green color. Like a miniscule rainbow. Lots of miniscule rainbows. There’s no doubt whatsoever these plants are being cared for, worked with, prayed over; no toss-in-a-handful-of-seeds-and-see-what-grows in this garden. When these plants are harvested, the quality will be Outer Space And Beyond. This is, in other words, some Dynamite Weed.

“We got the original seeds from Mendocino County, California,” Pete says. “The growers there assure us it was originally from Hawaii.”

Hawaii: surfers, tourists, and exceedingly powerful marijuana, the legendary “Maui-Wowie.” And Pete’s proud of the fact it’s being grown right here in the heart of Dixie.


Can a woman reach the top in Atlanta?

Our answer was “yes.” But we advocated for an oddly “feminine” strategy.

October 1984By Phyllis Fraley | Originally published in October 1984 and excerpted here:

Jean confesses straight out what few successful women would dare admit: that she has climbed up the corporate ladder not only through brains and hard work but also because of calculated feminine wile. She is, it must be said, attractive, and, as she says “bleached blonde”; in her bare feet, she is six feet tall, and she has been known to accentuate her height with heels; she often wears “a dress that cannot be missed” to important business meetings. Why? She wants attention. “That’s my first goal,” she says about her image tactics. “Once I’ve got that, I have a chance to prove I know what I’m talking about.”

“So, some businessmen might call me, ‘honey,’” she shrugs. “That’s okay. I answer back, ‘darling.’”

No doubt her reaction in some circles will be that Jean is either a stereotype or a traitor to the cause, your typical dumb blonde who succeeds through guilt rather than performance. Not true. She gets results, as her record as an important executive with one of the largest corporations in the country aptly illustrates. But one of the reasons she has done well is that she is pragmatic and shrewd. . . . As a daughter of Dixie, true to the Scarlett O’Hara school of success, she has learned how to exploit rather than succumb to the peculiarities of the South.


Top 10

These lists from the 1980s have (mostly) stood the test of time

Toughest Jobs in Atlanta
All remain a challenge—well, except for proofing the phone book. (April 1987)

1. Air traffic controller at Hartsfield
2. Police officer on the beat
3. Emergency room “pit boss”
4. Stock trader
5. Judge
6. Lion (and tiger) keeper at the zoo
7. Repo man
8. Telephone book proofreader
9. Onion chopper at the Varsity
10. Window washer

Buildings Worth Saving
All have survived except the Farlinger Buliding. (January 1987)

1. Candler Building
2. Brookwood Station
3. Odd Fellows Building
4. Healey Building
5. Citizens and Southern National Bank
6. Academy of Medicine
7. Flatiron Building
8. Farlinger Buliding
9. Herndon Mansion
10. Bulloch Hall

We thought we were Creative Loafing.

Best of Atlanta

Atlanta published its first annual Best of Atlanta package in February 1980. Some sample entries:

Cheesecake
Best: Katz, 2205 Cheshire Bridge Road. Cloudt’s had support, but Katz’s cheesecake has more guilt, which is, after all, what good cheesecake is about.
Worst: Any frozen cheesecake. They taste like padded bras.

Restaurant
Best: The Abbey, Piedmont Road at Ponce de Leon Avenue. You pray the evening will never end.
Worst: Howard Johnson’s. HoJo? No, no.

Meal Under $5
Best: Mary Mac’s Tea Room, 224 Ponce de Leon Ave. It ain’t heavy, it’s your supper. Meat, drink, three veggies plus dessert, all for $4, tax included.
Worst: Krystal. Cheap but no bargain.

Place to Get (a) Coke
Best: The Robert Woodruff Lounge at Emory
Worst: Ham Jordan’s Apartment

Idea Whose Time Has Come and Gone
Best: Heterosexuality
Worst: White anklet socks for women

Women’s Clothing Store
Best: Saks Fifth Avenue. It costs an arm and a leg, but the fit and the look are so good no one will notice they’re gone.
Worst: Frederick’s of Hollywood, Cumberland Mall. Where Charlie’s Angels go to die.

[Sports] Owner
Best: Ted Turner, Hawks
Worst: Ted Turner, Braves


Waiting for Armageddon

Waiting for ArmageddonA growing number of Americans believe the end is near, whether from nuclear war, economic collapse, or natural disaster. They’re learning survival skills, stockpiling supplies, tools, and ammunition. They’re ready to defend themselves.

By Jeffrey R. Lauterbach | Originally published in March 1981 and excerpted here:

Waiting for Armageddon
Survivalist trainer Harold Van Wert at his school near Dalton

The Powerwagon rolls to a halt. Jim leans forward over the wheel and peers ahead down the one-lane road where the tire tracks he’s followed off the hardtop a half mile back disappear around the next downhill bend. He turns to the back seat where his wife Robin sits between their two sleeping boys. “They sure don’t look familiar to me,” he says of the tire tracks. “I better go have a look.” As he opens the door, a blast of Tennessee cold sweeps into the cab. He turns to me and tells me to stay put.

I turn to Robin. “Does this sort of thing happen often?”

“No,” she replies. “Jim’s just being careful. . . . It’s taken years to build up the supplies we have down there.”

Their supplies: food for a year, bottled water for months, books, tools, ammunition, seeds—all geared to self-sufficiency. No doubt about it, Jim and Robin are very serious about survival; and just like other Atlantans I’d tracked down over the past few months, they believe at the core of their beings that life as we live it today won’t last much longer.

He is one of a growing number of Americans who have decided that ultimate disaster lies just over the horizon. If the recent success of Georgia businesses geared to survival is an indicator, then getting ready for doomsday has indeed become an increasingly popular activity.

—Writer Jeffrey R. Lauterbach traded a day of labor for an inside peek at a survivalist family’s well-stocked retreat in Tennessee.

Explore more decades

This article appears in our January 2021 issue.

60 years of covering Atlanta: The 1970s

Atlanta Magazine January 1970
January 1970: “The City’s Prophecy”—what comes next for the nation’s “City of the ’60s”

For our January 2021 issue, in honor of our 60th anniversary year, we dug through our archives to present a snapshot of the magazine during each of our six decades. We discovered groundbreaking work, inspiring stories, and, yes, some errors in judgement. Here’s what we found:

The ’70s in 8 Quotes

From soccer to women in the workplace, these quotes offer a glimpse into 1970s Atlanta

“The $30 Million Industry Atlanta Wants to Kill”
November 1970

“The kingpins that control the hard drug trade are smart businessmen. They looked at Atlanta’s hippies, who were smoking marijuana and taking LSD, and they saw a big, new potential market of receptive kids. All they had to do was offer them something else for ‘turning on.’” They turned on.  — Fulton County District Attorney Lewis Slaton explains the entry of opiates into “the Strip, Tight Squeeze, the 10th Street hippie area”

“Low-Income Housing: Atlanta’s Hot Potato”
March 1974

“If I were really poor, I’d be frightened at this point. The poor don’t know where to go. They feel they’re being squeezed out of the city. . . . Atlanta is going to have to decide whether it’s going to be a city for the rich only or whether it’s going to take care of all its people.” — Pauline Newman, of the Atlanta Community Relations Commission

November 1970“School Integration: Fight Whom With What?”
April 1970

“Some school districts, which have promised to desegregate by this fall, may not; others may resegregate. The school superintendents are placed in a very vulnerable spot: Segregationists have been saying, ‘If you drag your feet, you won’t have to do it.’ And those who did desegregate may be repudiated politically, for the federal government has abandoned superintendents to local political pressure. . . . Desegregation of students in the Atlanta system is less than the state-wide average in Georgia.” — Paul Rilling, regional civil rights director for the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, on desegregation and his resignation

“Other Things To Do”
March 1977

“One reason I got involved in baseball particularly and now in basketball is that one of our great challenges is to fully integrate our Black brothers into our society. . . .

And I think America cannot survive without us doing it.” — Ted Turner

“Will Success Spoil Stone Mountain?”
April 1970

One Black legislator explained he had no particular objection to the carving or the hoopla being planned for its dedication. “It’s going to bring in lots of tax money,” he winked. “And besides it will always remind the bastards that they lost the war.”

“Soccer, the national sport in more than 120 countries, has begun exploding in Atlanta”
March 1971

“Kids here don’t grow up playing soccer like some do with football, baseball, and basketball. But by the late 1970s, it will be a very major sport in this country.” —Dick Cecil, vice president of the Atlanta Chiefs and a founding father of the professional North American Soccer League

“Wife, Mother, and Company President”
April 1970

“Men can be very condescending at times and listen to you because they think the idea of a female industrial designer is cute and charming without really hearing what you have to say. . . . I found this male attitude somewhat worse in the South when I first came here, probably because working women are not part of the Southern tradition. But in the seven years I’ve been in business in Atlanta, I’ve seen it disappearing awfully fast.” — Betty Smulian

“Unchoking the Chattahoochee”
February 1971

Millions of gallons of raw sewage, industrial sludge, blood and features from butchered chickens, textile dyes, chemicals, garbage, detergents, dead animals, and assorted other filth are dumped in daily by metro Atlanta’s 1.4 million residents. . . . [But] after five years of foot-dragging, of lame excuses, and allocating money it “didn’t have” to other projects, Atlanta is finally unchoking the Chattahoochee. 


Behind the scenes

Three stories provided an especially intimate look at the lives of Georgians who faced the era’s big issues. Here are excerpts from each.

Anne Rivers Siddons Maid in Atlanta 1971 Atlanta MagazineMaid in Atlanta
November 1971

Late spring. Long shadows on a vast velvet lawn. White columns shimmering deep in a twilight cave of sweet new green. Banjo music, soft and aching, from somewhere behind the big house. A warm fog of fragrance from the kitchen, from the Cape Jasmine bushes, from the magnolias, incandescent in the sea-green, underwater dusk. A heavy, middle-aged Black woman in starched white trundles ponderously after a streaking, sleep-querulous small blond boy, capering across the lawn. She scoops him up, scolds him softly as she bears him, wriggling, back to the house. . . . She kisses him. Pauses to listen to the sounds of adult laughter on the lanterned veranda. To watch the ridiculous jeweled peacocks fanning on the grass. To think about the narrow white bed in the small, neat house behind the big one. Gone with the Wind? Song of the South? No. Habersham Road, Atlanta, 1971.

. . . The maid of the South, the patient, loving Black woman who literally raised so many of us, who worked for our mothers in somnolent small towns and sheltered suburbs was real—her body, her hands, her toil, her ties to us and ours. But it was romantic fiction, largely—fiction and economic necessity—that supplied the relationship with its idyllic contentment and gaiety and simple, sunny charm.

That book is closing. Another is opening. Excerpt from the new book: In Washington, D.C., an angry Black woman tells a meeting of the National Committee on Household Employment that of the nation’s 1.7 million domestic workers, two-thirds are Black, 98 percent are women, and median income is about $1,800 a year—$600 lower than President Nixon’s proposed minimum for the unemployed. The woman knows: She is a maid. . . . In the South, which employs 54 percent of the nation’s domestic workers; where, in many states, prevailing wages are as low as 50 cents an hour, more chapters in the new book are being drafted.

—Anne Rivers Siddons tells the story of underpaid and overburdened domestic workers and their effort to unionize. Read the full article

March 1979“A Very Private Torment”
March 1979

“We have to protect our children. From society. Society doesn’t like gays, male or female. If it got out that I was gay, it would cost me my job—and for God’s sake, it might cost me my child. The courts aren’t very liberal here. . . . It wouldn’t bother me if my son became gay,” she says. “But I will admit it, it’s 10 times easier to be straight. I had to get myself married two times to try and convince myself I was straight. It didn’t work.”

Does she have any special problems with her toddler? Is it hard to be a lesbian mother? There is a short gasp on the other end of the line. When the woman answers, her voice is much louder.

“No, I’m not a lesbian mother,” she says tartly. “Just a mother! I pay the nursery bills, and I take the baby to the doctor, and he’s had the chicken pox, and he’s been in the hospital. And when it all happens, you don’t hold him in your arms and think, ‘I’m a lesbian mother.’ You think, ‘That’s my child, and I love him.’ Everything else falls away.”

Atlanta magazine lost a quarter of its advertising in the wake of publishing this cover story about LGBTQ parents.

“Why Not The Best?”
September 1971

“My most vivid memory of my boyhood life is a long, hard day’s work in the sun, in the fields. In a way, there was an intense satisfaction at the end of the day, when we came back to the house on a wagon and turned the mules out of the lot, that I had done all I could do as a human being that day. But the biggest thrill of my childhood was the day they turned the electricity on on the farm, when Roosevelt was president. . . . I was a real country boy. We lived two-and-a-half-miles out of Plains in Archery, Georgia. There was quite a class distinction in school between a guy who lived in the country and one who lived in Plains. And I was a little guy. Daddy always told me to do the best I could and not let anyone push me around. I had a lot of fights.”

— Over the course of about three months, then Governor Jimmy Carter wrote (“in longhand, in a plane or in the back seat of a car”) about some of the experiences that shaped his life and ambitions. He would announce his candidacy for president three years later.


Atlanta 2000

Atlanta 1970s 2000 predictionsOriginally published in August 1973

Nearly five decades ago, Atlanta devoted an entire issue to predicting what life would be like in the year 2000. These were some of our most accurate—and most absurd—guesses. Keep reading


Good Talk Is the Mainstay at Manuel’s

Manuel's September 1979By Nick Taylor | September 1979

When this ode to Manuel’s was published 42 years ago, the stalwart bar already was in its third decade. Read the story


Struggle of the ERA

By Robert Coram | April 1973

This sometimes off-base article details the legislature’s run-in with the infamous Phyllis Schlafly and the fight to pass the Equal Rights Amendment in Georgia, something the state (and country) has yet to do. After this article published, four magazine staffers, including Coram, filed sex discrimination suits against the magazine’s owner (the Chamber of Commerce) on the grounds that women doing the same jobs didn’t have comparable salaries. The suit was settled out of court, and the chamber standardized its pay scale and urged its members to do the same. Read the story

Explore more decades

This article appears in our January 2021 issue.

60 years of covering Atlanta: The 1960s

Atlanta Magazine November 1961 cover
November 1961: Cover by Milton Glaser, cofounder of New York magazine.

For our January 2021 issue, in honor of our 60th anniversary year, we dug through our archives to present a snapshot of the magazine during each of our six decades. We discovered groundbreaking work, inspiring stories, and, yes, some errors in judgement. Here’s what we found:

The ’60s in 6 Quotes

The era was nothing if not optimistic

“Opening Day at the Mart”
August 1961

“I dunno. I say it’s a big ugly fish. . . . My wife says it’s a gargoyle. But I’ll tell you this . . . I bet they sell it. People have been going in and out of there all day long. This looks more like Chicago than Atlanta.” — Visitor remark upon observing the opening of what is now AmericasMart

Atlanta’s Whisk ’a Go Go
Atlanta’s Whisk ’a Go Go (unique spelling for censors?) was originally located on Ponce de Leon Avenue and later moved to the Imperial Hotel.

Photograph by William F Diehl, Jr.

“Atlanta ’a Go Go”
April 1965

“Fad! This is no fad, friend. They said Presley was a fad, remember? They were giving six months. And the Beatles. Lookit the dance floor. We got four hundred people in here right now, that’s the limit. The line is halfway around the block. And this is Wednesday. We came here second. Straight from Hollywood. Ahead of New York, ahead of Miami.” — owner of the then new Whisk ’a Go Go nightclub

“The Expressway Picture Now”
May 1961

The whole business of expressways is confusing to the layman. . . .

A vast, complex expressway system in a large and famous American city was recently described by Bob Hope as “the fastest parking lot in the west.” Complicated, costly, and staggering in its proportions, this intricate network of concrete fingers—once hailed as the ultimate in traffic planning—now stands on the brink of becoming the largest headache in the country.

“A Major League Boost for the Economy”
August 1964

There’s a cavernous concrete oval rising like an elevator on the edge of town, and Ivan Allen Jr. has staked a piece of his political future on his ability to fill it with major league ballplayers and paying customers. . . . Where minor league baseball has been a sport of the male, major league baseball and major league football become social affairs. It becomes stylish for the ladies to be seen in the stands. This makes a participating party of the former “widow of sports.” What major league sports do for a city is to give that city an entirely fresh image throughout the country.

“The Excitement of Atlanta”
October 1961

This is Atlanta 1961. This is a hunch, a boom, a tingling on the back of the neck, a profit, the goose straining for the golden egg, a direction. This is now. Because, over and through and above it all there runs . . . the excitement of Atlanta. The excitement of Atlanta is a jet, dusty with Spain, skimming red Fulton clay. . . . Sousa in the park, Segovia in the auditorium, and Shakespeare in repertory. . . . smoke and music, and above it all, the people.

“Coca-Cola’s Project Alpha”
May 1963

The task of designing a package for TAB was as challenging as any other facets of this intriguing project. That this drink is both tasty and easy on the diet must be implicit in the design. It must have a shape with high remembrance value [and] an identity all its own. Most importantly, it must have the same dimensions as other packages used by our bottlers and fit all existing machines for bottling and vending. In other words, it must be unique—but the same.


Fixations

Early on, as a Chamber of Commerce publication, this magazine ran many dull reports on topics like textile-industry trends, but we were fixated with two sexier themes.

Planes, trains, & automobiles

The very first news item in our very first issue was “The Lockheed Bid,” about the Marietta company’s successful effort to win the contract to build the C141 jet transport. The team had spent $1.5 million on the effort, shipping one hundred pounds of papers and models in boxes that “strongly resembled coffins.” The second issue featured a painting of the new terminal on the cover and boasted that Atlanta was “the Aviation Center of the South.” Already, the editors noted that “salesmen” often said, “I don’t know whether I’m going to heaven or hell, but I know for sure, whichever it is, I’ll have to change planes in Atlanta.” The same issue contained a photo essay of three mischievous boys inspecting the new terminal. The decade’s pages featured drawings of new airplanes, a five-page story on Lockheed’s StarLifter, maps of flight times (24 hours to Hong Kong! 20 ½ hours to Nairobi!), a CEO profile on the origins of Delta (crop dusting), and features on pilots, private flying (“Businessmen flying their own planes today aren’t the brave, hardy breed who once dared death in the sky. Private flying is as safe as driving a car.”), and, in 1965, “stewardess training” (which opened with a room of 40 “nubile” young women gasping to learn they had to cut their hair, no bouffants allowed).

Nearly as prominent was our fascination with automobiles, which also appeared on the cover. November 1962 included a full-spread illustration of a hot red sports car with white wall tires, “styled especially for Atlanta magazine.” And, though MARTA would not launch until the 1970s, we had begun to speculate about rapid transit.

Gene Holtan
Gene Holtan did title drawings for the TV show F-Troop as well as work for Rolling Stone, Saturday Evening Post, and others.

Illustration by Gene Holtan

Mad Men

Fans of the AMC series Mad Men would have no trouble recognizing characters in the early years of our magazine’s first decade. Many covers were dedicated to “Atlanta’s Madison Avenue,” with bits like “What is an art director?”; “The anatomy of an illustration”; and “Be kind to your printing friends or next year’s campaign may suffer.” The era had an affinity for medieval motifs, reflected in the woodblock illustrations and gothic lettering of the “Businessman’s Guide to Printing.” Our favorite is definitely the 1962 “Child’s Primer to Advertising” (by Alan Barzman with illustrations by Gene Holtan), which contrasted creative and uncreative “ad-men.” To wit: “Creative people are responsible for creating the ads—and uncreative people are responsible for rejecting the ads. Creative people are frustrated because they are not understood. Uncreative people are frustrated because they are not creative people.” 


The crisis of affordable housing and the misguided legacy of urban renewal

Atlanta Magazine January 2962January 1962 featured our first cover story on urban renewal. There would be another in 1963. In midcentury America, “urban renewal” was a federal program designed to help cities rehabilitate impoverished areas, enhance urban infrastructure, and provide affordable housing. Though promising in theory, in reality, the movement erased historic neighborhoods, often failed to provide new housing, and displaced thousands of residents, who were disproportionately people of color. Our 1962 story crowed about razing 1,235 acres near the central business district (the areas around Butler Street, Rawson-Washington Streets, and University Center), selling the land to private interests, and adding $125 million to the tax digest.

The editors did note, “No longer are slums considered personal problems of people who live in them. Local governments have come to realize an obligation to rehabilitate slum areas for the people who live there.” They confidently added that 1,000 families were moved from “almost inhuman conditions” to private and public housing.

However, by the end of the decade, the magazine had become more realistic about the multifaceted crisis of affordable housing. In 1969, Bruce Galphin, who would later become managing editor, wrote, “Atlanta must house her people—all of them—white and Black, rich and poor. . . . Almost any week there are headlines in Atlanta’s newspapers reporting some new luxury housing development. Not so for the poor. If you’re poor, and especially if you’re Black and single and elderly, housing not only is overpriced; it’s hard to find.”


YMOGs & Powderpuffs

For decades, the magazine featured a department called “Young Men on the Go,” referred to by staff as YMOGs. The columns featured faces still familiar today, such as Sam Massell, James Dickey, and John Portman—nearly all white. Women, apparently, weren’t “on the go.” The first story about professional women appeared in January 1968. (“The Southern woman has stepped off the pedestal and kicked off the crinoline.”) In that era, women were more apt to appear in stories with headlines like August 1962’s cover story, “The Legendary Beauties of Atlanta” or April 1971’s “Powderpuff Power.”


Worst cover idea

November 1965The cover of the November 1965 issue featured a Klansman looking out the eyeholes of his hood, his pupils reflecting a burning cross. The year marked the 50th anniversary of the Invisible Empire of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the organization birthed at Stone Mountain in 1915. Sure, the story mocked the organization, affirmed Atlanta’s intolerance for it, and warned of a recent renaissance. But it also acknowledged that articles in newspapers helped generate publicity and “feed its coffers.” What were we thinking?


Prediction

Guess we were channeling George Jetson

1960s driverless cars
Our vision of driverless cars in 1968

Illustration by George Sadler

Driverless Cars
The May 1968 issue predicted that commuters could one day ride driverless electric cars to work. While “he” was at work, the car could drive itself to the garage or be used by other workers.


Trend Setters

Midway through the decade, we started to introduce style pointers

Gift Guide
Our December 1965 gift guide alarmingly included a pair of Civil War replica pistols ($59.50) and a rifle ($295). But in a show of much better judgment, it also featured a sleek Charles Pollock office chair by Knoll ($250) and a Hasselblad camera ($615).

Fashionata
The September 1965 issue featured Rich’s annual Fashionata. We raved that it “bears a great deal more resemblance to a sophisticated, full-production Broadway revue than to the twittering, flower-hatted dovecote of clubwomen belting down finger sandwiches that the term ‘style show’ evokes.” Organizer Sol Kent famously quipped, “We’re selling the sizzle, not the steak.”


The Vietnam War

Atlanta Magazine December 1966In the early ’60s, the magazine was relentlessly optimistic. It seemed to ignore political assassinations and ran no feature on the death of Martin Luther King Jr. (until 1972). But the magazine of that era did invest deeply in covering the Vietnam War.

Atlanta Magazine December 1966Twice Atlanta documented soldiers’ lives overseas. In 1966, Vernon Merritt III spent seven months photographing Ronald Griffith, a 28-year-old captain from Rossville, in a remote village south of Saigon. And our December 1966 cover story, “Hello everyone, Well, today is another day in Vietnam,” paired portraits of seven Georgia soldiers, captured by Dick Swanson (Black Star), with their handwritten letters home during the holidays. Jaes Milner Jr., wrote to his parents in Milledgeville: “Most of all, I’m hoping a very merry Christmas to all even though I have to be here fighting to protect our way of living, which I think isn’t the worst thing in the world to face.”

Atlanta Magazine December 1966


What Sort of Mayor? The Odds Favor Ivan

Originally published in January 1962 and excerpted here

What Sort of Mayor? The Odds Favor IvanAtlanta’s founding editor, Jim Townsend, was there when Ivan Allen, then president of the Chamber of Commerce, announced his run for mayor. Sort of. He wouldn’t officially enter the race until his predecessor, William B. Hartsfield, confirmed his retirement after 23 years. Mayor Allen would become the only Southern elected official to testify before Congress and endorse the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Technically, the press conference began with Allen’s midyear report on the Chamber’s progress:

What he said was interesting. On Schools: “The Atlanta Chamber became one of the first business organizations in the South to recognize that desegregation of schools is a fact of life.” On Expressways: “We adopted an attitude of complete cooperation with public officials rather than one of antagonism.” On Urban Renewal: “The Atlanta Chamber must vigorously support the city’s urban renewal and housing efforts.” On Rapid Transit: “The scope and timing of the project calls for an immediate start at concrete planning and programming.”

Laying the report aside, Ivan stuffed both fists into his coat pockets and leaned tensely forward from the waist in a pose which was to become characteristic of the candidate in coming months: “I will submit my resignation as president of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce . . . before I make another announcement around the middle of June of a political nature.” That was it; his hat was in the ring. 


Systems Go

A fisheye peek behind the power grid

1960s power grid
Georgia Tech researchers used automated “slave hands” to handle radioactive material.

Jay Leviton and Wayne Wilson

1960s power grid
These panels monitored Georgia Power Company’s electricity distribution.

Jay Leviton and Wayne Wilson

In this automated age, Atlanta must be a control center, a city of electronic relays, radar screens, computers, radiation shields, valves, cables, switches, and meters. Here are glimpses of the amazing control devices keeping modern Atlanta humming.
—April 1964

Explore more decades

This article appears in our January 2021 issue.

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