Young to speak at annual tribute

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Ambassador Andrew Young will be keynote speaker for the Coweta County Democrats' Atkinson-Arnall Tribute June 23 in Newnan.

By W. WINSTON SKINNER
winston@newnan.com
Ambassador Andrew Young will be the speaker for the annual Atkinson-Arnall Tribute on June 23 in Newnan.
Young, now 80, was a Civil Rights activist and a protege of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Young has served in Congress, as mayor of Atlanta and as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
The Atkinson-Arnall Tribute is sponsored each year by the Coweta County Democratic Party. The event honors the two Georgia governors from Coweta County, William Yates Atkinson and Ellis Gibbs Arnall.
This year’s Atkinson-Arnall gathering will be June 23 at 6:30 p.m. at Something Special Events Center, 83 Greenville St. Tickets are $50 each and are available from any Coweta County Democratic Committee officer or committee member.
Ticket information can also be obtained by contacting Morris Steward at msteward@melvillejohnson.com or Dee Crouch at deecrouch@deecrouchlaw.com .
A native of New Orleans, Young is a longtime resident of Atlanta. He is a founding principal and co-chairman of GoodWorks International.
He attended Dillard University and holds a bachelor of science degree from Howard University and a bachelor of divinity degree from Hartford Theological Seminary. Ordained by the United Church of Christ, Young served as a pastor in Marion, Ala., and in Thomasville and Beachton in Georgia.

Young worked for four years with the National Council of Churches and served as executive director and executive vice president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He was chairman of the Atlanta Community Relations Commission from 1970-1972.

He was elected to three terms in Congress before resigning in 1977 to become the U.S. representative to the United Nations. He served in that post for more than two years.

Young served as mayor of Atlanta from 1982-1990. He sought nomination as governor of Georgia in 1990.

Young was co-chairman of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games. In 1994, Young was appointed by Pres. Bill Clinton as chairman of the $100 million Southern Africa Enterprise Development Fund.

Last year, South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma, honored presented Young with the Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo Award.

Both Atkinson and Arnall were progressive Democrats. Atkinson’s wife, particularly, had strong political instincts and help her husband – when he was in the legislature – get the votes to pass a bill created the Georgia State College for Women.

Atkinson and Arnall both were governors during the era of the “Solid South” when Democrats held virtually every elective office in Georgia and nearby states. Both had interests in education, legislature reform and economic development.

A native of Meriwether County, Atkinson grew up on his family’s farm and graduated from the University of Georgia Law School in 1877. He opened a law practice in Newnan the following year.

He was soon appointed county court solicitor and then rose through the ranks of Georgia’s Democratic party. Atkinson was president of the state Democratic convention in 1890 and served four terms in the legislature. His wife, Susan “Susie” Cobb Milton Atkinson, was the granddaughter of John Milton, the governor of Florida during the Civil War.

Atkinson was elected governor and re-elected two years later. While he was in office, the legislature passed an anti-trust bill, a commission was formed to select textbooks for school, and election legislation was reformed. He appointed a commission to study conditions in the state’s prisons.

Atkinson also sought to establish the office of lieutenant governor and to pass anti-lynching legislation, but those goals remained for later polticos to fulfill.

The Atkinsons’ youngest child, Georgia, was the only child of a Georgia governor to be born in the Governor’s Mansion.

Atkinson left office in 1898. The next year he underwent an appendectomy, then a new medical procedure. He survived the operation, but died at age 44 on Aug. 8, 1899. His widow remained in Newnan where she ran an insurance agency and later served as postmaster.

Arnall was born in the house where Leslie and Carol Toole now reside on Wesley Street. His Arnall grandparents lived nearby in the home where Bob and Georgia Shapiro live today.

He grew up among cousins and friends in Newnan and was quarterback on the Newnan High School team.

Arnall attended Mercer University briefly, and matriculated at the University of the South where he majored in Greek. He then earned a law degree at the University of Georgia.

Upon completing his education, he returned to his hometown where he began practicing law, joined the Newnan Civitan Club and got involved in politics. In 1932, he won a seat in the General Assembly. When he was only 31, he became Georgia’s youngest attorney general.

Arnall’s years as governor from 1943-1947 were significant. He appointed a new board of regents for the state’s universities and set up a system to protect the colleges from political manipulation.

Arnall worked to upgrade and modernize the penal system and undertook a thorough reworking of the Georgia Constitution. Under this leadership, Georgia became the first state in the nation to lower the voting age to 18 and the fourth in the South to abolish the poll tax.

Arnall died Dec. 13, 1992. Ellis Arnall and W. Y. Atkinson are both buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Newnan. Arnall’s first wife, Mildred Slemons Arnall, preceded him in death. He married Ruby Hamilton McCord, who survives him, in 1981.



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