In this WSB newsfilm clip dated January 6, 1969, Atlanta mayor Ivan Allen, Jr. addresses a meeting of the Atlanta Board of Aldermen at city hall; discusses his decision to not run for re-election as mayor with a reporter; and delivers a speech to the Atlanta Rotary club where he thanks Atlanta's business community for its support and urges the audience to prioritize improvements that will benefit poor African Americans both socially and economically. Several segments of the clip appear to be out of sequence.
The clip, which is approximately fifteen minutes long, begins with several shots of Allen working inside of the mayor's office in Atlanta City Hall; he speaks to an aide, and then flips through what appears to be an appointment book. Next, a reporter holds his microphone up to the mayor's son Ivan Allen III, who comments supportively on his father's work as mayor, and on his decision to retire from public office, noting ". . . we're, in some respects, sorry to see him make this decision, but in other respects, glad to know that he's going to have some time on his hands . . . and be able to devote more time to other interests." The reporter's question is not recorded. This is followed by b-roll footage of Allen's mayoral memorabilia housed in city hall, which includes a photograph of Allen speaking to a fireman in front of a street full of fire hoses; a plaque beneath a glass vitrine housing a football that reads "Atlanta's first national league football Atlanta Falcons vs. Los Angeles Rams September 11, 1966 Atlanta Stadium"; and another photograph of Allen petting a lemur held by an animal trainer. The camera then pans across a wall full of ceremonial shovels used in groundbreakings.
Next, Mayor Allen, sitting in the back seat of a chauffeured automobile, speaks to a reporter who is off-camera. Allen outlines some of the difficulties of being the mayor of a major city. He recalls "there have been fifteen or twenty major crises during the last seven or eight years," notes that he is obliged to family and friends "to not stretch myself out too far," and that he considers the privilege of serving eight years "a long time." He says that his service as mayor has broadened his friendships and his knowledge of the city, then comments "I have a very deep understanding of the race issue, of which I spoke about today with all of the frankness and candor that I can put into it. There's in Atlanta, a tremendously grave problem, and unless we build our structure strong and build a strong Negro community, we're going to be in grievous trouble and I feel like I have the complete freedom to express this in the strongest possible fashion now." The sound drops out, and the camera focuses on the vehicle approaching Atlanta City Hall through the passenger-side window.
Next, Mayor Allen greets several people, including African American alderman Q. V. Williamson, and vice mayor Sam Massell inside Atlanta City Hall at a meeting of the board of aldermen. This is followed by a shot of the audience seated inside of city hall, and then by footage of Massell speaking at a podium, admonishing current city officeholders for announcing their candidacy for the office of mayor too early. Massell notes that it is a disservice to their constituents considering the election is still ten months away; he then refers to a study that recommends shorter campaign periods. There are several more shots of people attending the meeting at city hall; these are followed by a shot of Mayor Allen, who addresses the city hall audience from the same podium where Massell was speaking previously. Allen warns against the reliance on property tax increases to supply the city with revenue, notes that high property taxes will prohibit business growth and residential development, and urges the audience to seek additional sources of revenue.
After a break in the clip, Allen speaks to the Atlanta Rotary club, a local chapter of the business service club Rotary International. At the dais, a signboard reads "Attendance," and lists 1967 and 1968 attendance figures; a Rotary International emblem is displayed on the podium where Allen delivers his speech. The screen fades to white for several seconds, then returns to Allen speaking for several moments without sound. The sound returns, and Allen recognizes the Atlanta business community by quoting Atlanta's previous mayor, William B. Hartsfield: "Atlanta's government and the business community have been closely allied in an effort to make this a better, and a greater city." He thanks the Rotary organization for their support both politically and personally; acknowledges his father, businessman Ivan Allen Sr.'s attachment to the Rotary club; and expresses appreciation for the club's consideration during and after his father's death the previous year. During the speech, Allen heralds some of the past year's accomplishments, which include the fluoridation of the city's water. He regrets the defeat of public transportation, noting "we lost rapid transit; we lost it badly," and attributes the loss to Atlanta residents not being ready to accept a greater ad valorem tax burden in order to support the service. He announces "I think that it is proper that I make clear my own plan"; the clip then breaks.
The clip starts again, with the mayor stating "Having removed myself completely from that office, there are matters that I wish to speak to the Atlanta Rotary club as well as to the people of Atlanta on what I consider to be the most difficult era in which we go into, and the most difficult problem that we have, and that is the problem of race as it confronts almost every American city today." He continues, stating "I'm anxious to have the privilege to speak to the white community of Atlanta, with the complete freedom that goes where no one says that what you say is being said because you are seeking the Negro vote. I am speaking now as a private Atlanta citizen with complete candor on what I consider to be the most grievous problems that the American city is confronted with today."
He refers to a television program that he watched recently, which documented the racial challenges of several American cities, such as Boston, Massachusetts, Rochester, New York, and New York City, each city possessing African American populations significantly smaller than that of Atlanta. He says "I believe that every right-thinking American citizen today acknowledges the fact that the most serious domestic problem that we have are the twenty million Negro citizens of this country who have been denied, and all of us are part . . . of the guilt of denying them equal opportunity, equal rights and equal advantages in this great democracy." He notes that forty-six percent of the Atlanta population is African American, and that approximately forty percent of that group consists of "an established Negro population that has been here a long time." He cites prominent African American leaders in Atlanta ". . . it's the Alexanders, it's the William Holmes Borders, it's Martin Luther King, Sr., it's the Bill Calloways, it's the T. M. Alexanders, it's Dr. [Frederick Earl] McLendon, it was old A. T. Walden. . ." and describes those leaders as "a conservative, constructive group that acquired a substance in this city and that were part of the community." The clip breaks and jumps to another portion of Allen's speech, where he explains that he has spent his past seven years in office ". . . devoted primarily to the racial problem . . ." He applauds the success of the city's services, including fire, police, street paving and garbage pickup, and acknowledges the problems caused by a city garbage worker's strike that took place during the fall of 1968. Allen then urges the audience to recognize poverty in the African American community as the city's most serious problem; acknowledges the essential role that federal funding has played in the city's municipal improvements, particularly in low income housing; and notes that seven to eight percent of the population of Atlanta lives in low income housing units. The clip breaks and jumps again. Allen continues to emphasize the importance of raising the quality of life for poor African Americans for the good of the city, and says ". . . the bottom level has got to be raised if you're going to structure the foundation." He congratulates the business community for improving employment opportunities for African Americans, and begins to discuss African American voting rights, but is cut off by a break in the clip. After a couple more jumps in the clip, Allen concludes his presentation by saying that he hopes the Rotary club will invite him to speak the following year, and that his message will be positive. He emphasizes that his perspective on the city is both candid and sincere after ". . . having lived in the sun of the vortex of the racial issue for some eight years now, and having seen what I think needs to be done, and having seen the vast changes, some successful and some not so successful . . ." He thanks the audience and the business community for their support over the years, expresses pride in the city on behalf of his family, and appreciates the privilege of serving as mayor. Next, in another segment of b-roll footage, Mayor Allen walks along the sidewalk on Forsyth Street and heads into the Dinkler Plaza hotel, the location of the Atlanta Rotary club meeting.
The clip returns to Allen's speech at the Atlanta Rotary club, where he explains that the timing of his announcement not to run for re-election is intended to provide voters with time to consider the best candidate, and he expresses confidence in the city's leadership to select a new mayor. In the next shot, Allen leaves the podium. As he makes his way behind the dais, the audience gives him a standing ovation. This is followed by shots of Allen shaking hands with members of the audience as they congratulate him. Next, a crowd of white men in business suits line up along a staircase displaying a large "Welcome Rotary" sign; this is presumably inside the Dinkler Plaza hotel. The clip jumps to an earlier scene from the event, where Allen waves to the audience as he prepares to speak to the Rotary club. The sound drops out during a brief shot of the audience, and in the first few seconds of the next shot, which returns to Allen's Rotary club speech. The sound resumes, and Allen recognizes that while they may find solutions to municipal problems, such as financial shortages, he emphasizes ". . . but we've got to find the answer in the city of Atlanta to what is obviously our number one problem, and that is the Negro citizen and he has got to be raised to a decent standard of economics and social position if a city with a forty-six percent, and growing percentage of Negro population is going to be a strong city in the future. We can't do it except by improving their lot." The clip returns to b-roll footage of the front of Atlanta City Hall, followed by a short scene of Mayor Allen entering a city hall meeting, where he greets members of the audience, and then members of the city government.
On January 6, 1969, Atlanta mayor Ivan Allen, Jr. publicly announced that he would not seek re-election for a third term in office, first at an Atlanta Rotary club luncheon, and then later that afternoon at a meeting of the board of aldermen while delivering his annual "state of the city" address. During these speeches, Allen urged the city's business and civic leaders to address the needs of the African American urban poor, advocated for increased funding to support the city's economic development and public housing projects, and attributed much of the city's success to the support provided by financial partnerships with the federal government. Allen's support for federally-funded municipal projects was fortified by the recommendations of the 1968 report supplied by the U.S. National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, also known as the Kerner Commission report, which proposed a substantial commitment of federal resources to improve African American work and living conditions. Allen also noted the city's shifting social and political demographics. As mayor, Allen had cultivated a longstanding voting coalition that was comprised of Atlanta business leaders, African Americans, and liberal and moderate whites; by the end of his second term, the core of the city's political power had begun to shift substantially away from the white business community, and towards African American voters.
Title supplied by cataloger.
The Civil Rights Digital Library received support from a National Leadership Grant for Libraries awarded to the University of Georgia by the Institute of Museum and Library Services for digital conversion and description of the WSB-TV Newsfilm Collection.