Andrew Young (pictured throughout) has not been in public office since 1990, but his contributions as a politician to the Civil Rights Movement and his service as an elected official have catapulted him to legendary status. Even after a failed gubernatorial bid, Young has gone on to do amazing work as a private citizen. Today, NewsOne celebrates another milestone of Young as he reaches the rich age of 81 today.
Born in 1932 in New Orleans to parents Andrew Sr., a dentist, and Daisy Fuller, a schoolteacher, Young benefited from a middle-class upbringing that was rare for many African Americans during the Great Depression. By Young’s own admission, he didn’t take advantage of his good fortunes and nearly failed out of Howard University but eventually graduated in 1951. It was expected that Young would enter the dentistry field, but he went on to obtain a divinity degree from Hartford Theological Seminary in Connecticut.
Young’s path to becoming the pastor of Bethany Congregational Church in Thomasville, Ga., in 1955 also placed him squarely in the mix of the burgeoning fight for equal rights. Although the times were turbulent, Young organized voting registration drives and other activities centered on civil rights despite the obstacles faced.
In 1961, Young would leave his pastoral post and joined the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), leading workshops on non-violent protests and community organizing. Young rose within the ranks of the SCLC, becoming the group’s executive director and a close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; Young was with King during the 1968 assassination of the beloved orator and leader.
Afterward, Young thrust himself in to the world of politics, winning Georgia’s Fifth District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Young was the first African American since Reconstruction to be elected to Congress from Georgia.
Young was joined by Texas congresswoman Barbara Jordan as the first Blacks from the South to be elected to Congress in the 20th Century.
Young would serve two terms as a representative, resigning from the office in 1977. During that time, then-president Jimmy Carter tapped Young to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and he held the post until 1979. Unfortunately, Young’s time in the post was marred with controversy because of the so-called “Andy Young Affair,” where Young met privately with Palestinian officials causing Israel to balk. He was asked to resign by Carter shortly after.
Young returned to Atlanta and was later elected mayor in 1981 over Maynard Jackson. It marked the first time in history a Black mayor would pass the reigns to another person of color. Young would later run for governor in 1989, losing a 1990 Democratic primary bid. From there, Young decided not to pursue politics any further.
In 1994, President Bill Clinton and South African President Nelson Mandela appointed Young as the chairman of the Southern Africa Enterprise Development Fund.
Young would release a biography in 1996 titled “A Way Out of No Way: The Spiritual Memoirs of Andrew Young.” A later book, “Walk in My Shoes: Conversations between a Civil Rights Legend and his Godson on the Journey Ahead with Kabir Sehgal,” was released in 2010.
Largely out of the public eye except for television stints and his professorial position at Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Young is still considered one of Black America’s brightest political superstars.
Happy Birthday, Andrew Young!
(Correction: Andrew Young turned 81, not 80.)