Meet John Calhoun, Mayor Jacksons Partner in Creating Neighborhood Planning Units.

Atlanta Councilman & Civil Rights Activist John Calhoun Receives Award from Maynard Jackson 5/28/81

John H. Calhoun Jr. was a businessman, community leader, civil rights activist, and political organizer. He dedicated much of his life to politics, business, community, and economic development. Calhoun was born on July 8, 1889, in Greenville, South Carolina. He began working at the age of twelve as an apprentice to a blacksmith. Calhoun was a lifetime student. He graduated from high school at Hampton Institute in Virginia, 1922 at the age of 23. Calhoun received a B.A. Degree from Morehouse College in 1937 at the age of 38 and received an M.B.A. from Atlanta University in 1968 at the age of 69.


In 1934, Calhoun moved to Atlanta and for the next thirty years became affectionately known by many in Atlanta as “Your Man in Community Action”. Calhoun’s civil rights work began as early as 1923 while working at the United States Veteran’s Hospital at Tuskegee as a bookkeeper resulting in many threats from the Klu Klux Klan. In 1949, he and several others formed the Atlanta Negro Voters Leagues and served with the Statewide Registration Committee. In 1956, he became president of the Atlanta Branch of the NAACP where he was arrested for refusing to release membership records. He set up a network of neighborhood organizations such as Economic Opportunity Atlanta in 1965, and later, Model Cities in 1974.

Calhoun was very passionate about politics and was an active member of the Republican Party. In 1974, he was elected to the Atlanta City Council where he presented a resolution to form the Neighborhood Planning Unit System. As a member, he introduced this same idea to the Atlanta Charter Commission and the Atlanta Regional Commission. Calhoun was also very passionate about his volunteer activities. He worked with the Butler Street YMCA for over fifty years, participated in civic affairs in the Grant Park area, was an active member of the Atlanta Business League, and served as a Trustee and Sunday School Superintendent of Big Bethel AME Church.
John Calhoun died May 6, 1988, of respiratory failure at his home in Atlanta, Georgia.

Story retrieved from Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library
Archives Research Center, January 25, 2023.

I was stunned to see so many community clinics and mental health facilities that have closed in metropolitan Atlanta since this printing.

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Former Mayor, Jackson Believed, “A leader must set an example for others to follow”.

As we enter February, Black History month, let’s give honor in memory to Atlanta’s first Black Mayor, Maynard Holbrook Jackson, Jr. who in 1969 changed the history of politics in Atlanta. Politics seemed to come naturally to Maynard, his father was a graduate of Morehouse College and pastor of Friendship Baptist Church. Before moving his family from Dallas, Texas, to Atlanta Rev Jackson founded a voter registration league for blacks in Dallas and was the first black to run for the Dallas school board. Maynard’s maternal grandfather, John Wesley Dobbs, was for decades an early civil rights activist and pioneer in voter registration and was the founder of the Georgia Voter’s league back in 1935 (Now the American Voter’s League) and was Grand Master of the Prince Hall Masons of Georgia. 

Mr. Dobbs was a bold and outspoken civic leader (take a drive down the street named after him in Atlanta) his steely efforts to encourage black voter registration would fortuitously pave the way for his grandson to seize political office decades later in a landmark victory that would subsequently change the face of history.

It has been said that Maynard Jackson created more black millionaires than anyone in America. He did it by making economic equity for African Americans one of his primary goals as mayor of Atlanta and refused to complete the new construction of Atlanta’s airport without minority participation (including women). The lasting example of his commitment is visible in the current standing Maynard Jackson International Atlanta Airport site and the addition of his name to the title of one of the busiest airports in the world – the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. 

Even as he enjoyed his business success Maynard never forgot those who continue to struggle simply to be given a chance. “A leader must set an example for others to follow, especially in assuring equal justice and equal economic opportunity to African Americans, Latinos, other minorities and women, all of whom are legally, ethically and morally entitled to it,” he told the Butler Street YMCA Hungry Club in a speech on Feb. 19, 2003.  The need for collective, positive struggle still is critical today. In the business world where many set their sights only on enriching themselves, Maynard Holbrook Jackson, Jr., was a leader. He set an example and never stopped fighting for equal economic opportunity for all in the Atlanta communities he served. Story By Geraldine (Gerri Elder, Former Chief of Staff to The Honorable Mayor, Maynard H. Jackson, Jr., and NPUR resident. Photo credit: Cision PR Web.

Boss Up, we must find and mentor leaders that care about us, The People. We need leaders who will work on our behalf. They say they will while on the campaign trail and as soon as they are elected they forget all that they campaign about and often betray us.

President Biden asked to “Choose Community Over Chaos”.

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The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves. Ray Kroc