Its still not clear to me at what point I actually sensed I was in Atlanta—there are so many of them. I certainly felt it at historic Five Points, still an important commercial center on weekdays, though rather tranquil on weekends.
Shoppers nearby bustle through Macy’s and Rich’s department stores, and professional people stride purposefully among the office buildings stretching from the gold-domed State Capitol to the Richard B. Russell Federal Office Building.
There are parks scattered about, but not many people pause in them: Downtown is for doing, not sitting.
The city basks in the brilliance of its favorite sons: Martin Luther King, Jr., Hank Aaron, Ted Turner, architect and developer John Portman. And here are storied institutions: the Centers for Disease Control, the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center, the Fernbank Science Center, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Champion Fiberglass, and Morehouse College, a molder of black leadership.
Now 69 percent black, the urban center promotes its history of opportunity and racial harmony. Civic pride, in fact, has acquired an almost religious quality, as if on the seventh day God hadn’t rested after all, but decided to make Atlanta instead, and saw that it was surprisingly good.
This juggernaut of progress is due in part to moderate climate, fortuitous location, cheap labor. But its real force is a terrific commercial drive. Its a fabulous city for business, said novelist Pat Conroy, a native (and one of the city’s more vocal critics).
Atlanta can write a contract, cut a deal, sell an insurance policy, transfer accounts, put up a new building, issue a stock option, hire an attorney, leverage a buy-out, or clinch a deal as well as any city in the world.
I asked Mayor Andrew Young why everyones moving to Atlanta. The former ambassador to the United Nations grinned and rubbed his fingertips: To make money.
Wondering if this passion for growth was simply some new phase, I went to visit Franklin M. Garrett (generally known as Mr. Atlanta) at the Atlanta Historical Society.
His office on Andrews Drive, full of railroad memorabilia and a stately grandfather clock booming the hour ten minutes late, comfortably holds the present at bay. But hes not worried.
Atlanta has never been your typical moonlight-andmagnolia southern town, he said. Its always been a rough-and-tumble place, forging ahead, gung-ho for progress.