The child of black Atlanta aristocrats, Jackson was the first grandson of John Wesley Dobbs, the unofficial “Mayor of Auburn Avenue” and a visionary who worked to register black voters. Jackson was a favored son who entered Morehouse College three years early and became a lawyer. Inspired to action by Bobby Kennedy’s assassination, Jackson made an impulsive, last-second run against incumbent Senator Herman Talmadge in 1968. His surprisingly strong showing set the stage for his election as the first black mayor of a major Southern city in 1973. He served three terms, pioneering affirmative action, building the new airport, and helping win the Olympics.
Cotton Cousins Jackson’s grandfather was born in Cobb County, where his family had been slaves of the Dobbs family. When he mentioned this to Governor Roy Barnes’s wife, Marie, she noted that Dobbs was her maiden name. They began comparing histories, and Jackson suddenly realized, “Marie, we’re cotton cousins!”
This article originally ran in the May 2011 issue.