Atlanta Must Reads for the Week: Remembering Horace Ward, notes from a cross burning, and the Braves’s stadium schemes

Plus, the story of Staplehouse and a look inside a Georgia immigration court
Suntrust park
SunTrust Park, the future home of the Atlanta Braves

Courtesy Atlanta Braves

Ira Boudway and Kate Smith in Bloomberg on the Braves’s stadium schemes

Next year the Braves will move to Smyrna, where the team’s shiny new SunTrust Park is being built, paid for with nearly $400 million in public money. But as Boudway and Smith explain, it’s just the latest (and most glaring) example of the Braves getting local governments to pick up the tab for new stadiums:

Sometime in 2003, when he was the mayor of Pearl, Miss., Jimmy Foster got a visit from a man he’d never met. The stranger, Tim Bennett, came to City Hall, an old brick schoolhouse on Pearl’s church-lined main street. “He just showed up in my office that day,” says Foster, “and started talking about baseball.” Specifically, Bennett wanted to know if Pearl might be interested in building a stadium for a minor league team. A ballpark, it turned out, was just the kind of project Foster was looking for. Now 62, with gray hair and a potbelly, Foster, who spent 19 years as a policeman in Pearl before becoming mayor, was desperate to help his hometown shed its reputation as a poor neighbor of Jackson. “There just wasn’t a lot of commercial or retail in town,” he says. “And there wasn’t a lot of money.” The sewers, the streets—it all needed attention. “Having a baseball team in Pearl? That was a pipe dream.”

Nobody had sent Bennett to Pearl. He was working in construction and trying to launch himself as a dealmaker. “I was really a rogue,” he says. Now 47, he came to Mississippi from central Florida, where his father ran a lawn-mowing business. “We grew up in a double-wide trailer with six of us and a bunch of dogs and cats,” he says. “And we cut grass for the right people.” One of the lawns Bennett used to tend belonged to a part-owner of the Tampa Bay Rays, and he learned that the franchise’s Double-A team was looking to move elsewhere. Bennett had no special fondness for baseball and never played, but he saw a chance to make some money: sell a Southern town on a team, get the Rays on board, and collect a piece of the action. He started in Jackson, the biggest city in Mississippi, which lost its Double-A team in 1999. The city wasn’t interested, however, and the Rays’ affiliate wound up moving to Montgomery, Ala. Bennett, close to broke, needed a new team and a new town. If Jackson wouldn’t listen, maybe Pearl, a scruffy suburb of 26,000 next door, would.

Read: The Braves Play Taxpayers Better Than They Play Baseball

Caitlin Dickerson for NPR on a Georgia immigration court battle

In Lumpkin, Georgia, immigrants are all but guaranteed to lose court cases, automatically resulting in deportation. Dickerson tags along with an immigration attorney whose client actually has a chance of winning:

Shawn came to the U.S. legally from Guyana in South America when he was 10. He grew up in New York City, married his high school sweetheart. He has three kids, and in 2005, they moved the family to a suburb of Atlanta. Shawn was arrested at home in 2011. He had four ounces of marijuana, two digital scales and plastic baggies. Shawn says he smoked weed but he didn’t sell it, but he was convicted of possession with intent to distribute marijuana. He went to jail for a year and a half, and that conviction makes him a priority for deportation.

“Once you get in there, you have to make sure that the judge knows,” Julio Moreno says. “’I’m very remorseful; I’m ashamed that I put myself in here and my family.’”

Julio wants Shawn to make two points very clear to the judge – one, that he’s sorry for his mistakes—no denying them and no excuses—and two, that Shawn’s family will suffer if he’s deported. There’s a lot on the line for Shawn today. If he wins, he could go home with his family. If he loses, he’ll be deported to a country he hasn’t seen in three decades 3,000 miles away.

Read: Inside A Georgia Immigration Court, One Man Fights To Stay With His Family

Sam Roberts for the New York Times on the life and death of Horace Ward

Ward, a native of LaGrange, Georgia, became the nation’s first black federal judge in 1979, 28 years after being denied admission to the University of Georgia’s law school because of his race. Roberts writes about the life of the esteemed judge, who died last weekend:

Horace Ward was his high school valedictorian, graduated with honors from Morehouse College in Atlanta in only three years and earned a master’s degree from Atlanta University. But when he applied to the University of Georgia’s law school in 1951, he was reflexively rejected because of his race, his qualifications notwithstanding.

With the support of Thurgood Marshall and others, Mr. Ward later sued, challenging the university’s policy of racial exclusion. The suit was eventually dismissed as moot—by then he had gone to another law school, outside Georgia—but it laid the groundwork for the university’s desegregation a decade later.

After graduating from Northwestern University’s law school in 1959, he was named Georgia’s first black federal judge in 1979. His swearing-in took place in the same courtroom where his lawsuit seeking admission to the university had been thrown out.

Read: Horace Ward, U.S. Judge Who Triumphed Over Bias, Dies at 88

Jeff Chu for Entrepreneur on the story behind Staplehouse

If you’re somehow not familiar with the story of Staplehouse, a 2016 James Beard Award finalist for Best New Restaurant, Chu recounts in full detail how owner Jen Hidinger opened the restaurant after the death of her husband, chef Ryan Hidinger, whose battle with cancer also inspired the Giving Kitchen, Staplehouse’s charitable arm:

The “we” has shifted from “Ryan and Jen” to “Jen, Kara and Ryan Smith,” who, she constantly reiterates, have been equal partners in the project since before her husband died. In Ryan’s absence, they formed a stable trio, slowly pushing the restaurant toward opening. It was a decision made somewhat in naïveté. “We all decided to be business partners without having worked together,” she says. “What would fulfill us was different.” (To address the obvious, Jen’s world now contains three very important Ryans: hers; Ryan Smith, whom Kara wed two weeks after Ryan Hidinger died; and her Ryan’s old boss, Ryan Turner, who’s now president of The Giving Kitchen’s board. She alternately refers to the other Ryans by their full or last names.)

But there were some things she had to endure alone. For weeks after Ryan died, Jen avoided the kitchen in their home. She’d speed-walk from her bedroom — their bedroom — to the front door. Some nights, she sat on the floor of the hallway, refusing to set foot in a space she saw as sacred, just staring at his stove. “I didn’t want to touch his pans or his knives,” she says. “They were a total, direct extension of his hands.”

She steeled herself for the long-planned annual fund-raiser, Team Hidi, which in 2014 came a month after Ryan’s death. Buoyed by the excitement over Staplehouse’s newly signed lease, it raised nearly $325,000. As media attention grew, The Giving Kitchen needed a face. Jen had studied broadcast communications at Indiana University, and had once imagined a career in advertising, but never desired to be in front of the camera. “I’m good at implementation and getting things done—the things nobody thinks about and the things nobody realizes need to be done to make things fluid,” she says. But she was the obvious candidate for this role, the best megaphone for the nonprofit’s message. So she stepped up.

Read: After A Tragedy, This Restaurateur Did What All Entrepreneurs Must: She Learned How To Keep Going

James King for Vocativ on witnessing a cross burning in Georgia

You probably read about last week’s Stone Mountain rallies pitting “pro-white” demonstrators against counter-protesters who shut down the Confederate shrine. King, however, tagged along to the after-party, 45 miles west of Atlanta, where white supremacists burned a cross and swastika in a display of the extremism that’s manifesting across the country:

A porch off the back of the building looks out over a multi-acre horse pasture, an idyllic country scene were it not for the 15-foot wooden cross and swastika that three neo-Nazis were wrapping in burlap and dousing in gasoline in preparation for the night’s festivities. Inside the bar, attendees milled about smoking cigarettes and sipping drinks in celebration of what they are calling an historic event.

Later, after the sun had set on the Georgia Peach, approximately 75 white supremacists gathered in the horse pasture. Members of different factions of the Ku Klux Klan, in ceremonial robes and hoods, were joined by members of the NSM and several other white nationalist groups, as well as several unaffiliated individuals who are sympathetic to the white nationalist agenda. They had all flocked to Georgia that day to attend two racially fueled rallies in support of the “white pride” movement. Each person in the group was given a wooden torch before forming a circle around the cross and swastika.

“For God! For race! For nation!” Will Quigg, the Grand Wizard of the California chapter of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, shouted to the group of white nationalists. “Approach your symbol. Do not turn your back on the symbol.” On Quigg’s command, the group set the two symbols ablaze. Cheers of “White Power” echoed across the field. It would be just another rally for racists were it not for the cross and the swastika burning side-by-side. For those unfamiliar with the white nationalist movement, both are racist emblems that seemingly go hand in hand. But for those in the movement, the union of these two symbols is the dawning of a new era of white supremacy.

Read: Rival White Supremacist Groups Unite To Fight “Race War”