Black History Month: Andrew Young’s legacy on the GWCCA campus

His name graces the main roadway bisecting not only Centennial Olympic Park, but the heart of the Georgia World Congress Center Authority’s (GWCCA) downtown Atlanta campus.

That thoroughfare – Andrew Young International Blvd., N.W. – has been in the news lately as the Authority plans to transform it into a more pedestrian-friendly and aesthetically-pleasing corridor.

So it begs the question for those not steeped in Atlanta history: Who is Andrew Young anyway and why is the main street through our campus named after him?

The short answer is: along with Billy Payne, he is credited as the major reason why Atlanta landed the 1996 Summer Olympics, much of which took place right here on the GWCCA campus.

Young’s accomplishments go beyond his involvement with the Olympics, however.

As Black History Month comes to a close, unConventional takes a quick look at the legacy of Andrew Young – the former Atlanta mayor, former U.S. Congress member, Co-Chair of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, confidante of Martin Luther King, Jr. and first African-American to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations – and his imprint on the GWCCA campus.

Andrew Young addresses the crowd at Centennial Olympic Park’s 20th anniversary celebration in 2016.

As did MLK, Jr., he also began his career as a pastor, leading to Young’s involvement in the civil rights movement. Landing the role of executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, while King was the president, Young was a key strategist and instrumental in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

And Young was with King when he was assassinated in Memphis in 1968 and was one of his pallbearers, moments memorialized in photographs, some of which you can see showcased in exhibits at our Centennial Park District neighbor, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.

Many public facilities and roadways are named after famous people posthumously – and the city of Atlanta has a penchant for renaming streets to honor prominent African-Americans, leveling the historical playing field.

There’s Ralph David Abernathy Blvd., John Wesley Dobbs Ave., Benjamin E. Mays Drive, and so on.

But thankfully, Andrew Jackson Young, Jr., born March 13, 1932, is still with us.

Young is an Atlanta institution, his accomplishments too many to list in a single blog post, and his name adorns many buildings and facilities throughout the city, from the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University to the Andrew & Walter Young Family YMCA.

Andrew Young International Boulevard was previously known as simply International Boulevard, and before that it was named Cain Street.

It was renamed Andrew Young International Boulevard in 2001 as part of a city-wide celebration of the civil rights icon’s 69th birthday.

Besides the street named after him, there are other reminders and traces of Young’s presence throughout the GWCCA campus, including his recent high-profile visit to Mercedes-Benz Stadium where he participated in the opening coin toss for Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3.

Young’s name also crops up in several monuments on campus, including the Summer Olympics historical marker (pictured above) erected at Centennial Olympic Park, which includes the line: “Atlanta attorney Billy Payne and Mayor Andrew Young were the prime architects of the winning bid.”

Also Olympic-themed, Young’s name adorns The Atlanta Nine monument (pictured above) at the park.

Meanwhile, his own words are inscribed into the stone pavers at the park’s Quilt of Remembrance plaza honoring the victims of the Centennial Olympic Park bombing on July 27, 1996.

It reads: “We will remember not hatred…not bitterness, not alienation but joy and happiness…we still love this park. – Ambassador Andrew Young, Co-Chairman of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games.”

Young also described the park’s reopening after the bombing incident as a “triumph of the human spirit.”