Former UN Ambassador Andrew Young Addresses audience at Georgia Southwestern

Published 11:08 am Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

On Saturday, June 8, former Atlanta Mayor and UN Ambassador Andrew Young spoke to an audience at Georgia Southwestern State University in support of the restoration of the Americus Historic Colored Hospital.

There are plans to restore the hospital and turn it into a museum, which will be known as the Americus-Sumter County Civil Rights and Cultural Center.

Young began his speech by talking about the time he spent with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as they fought together in the civil rights movement. Young talked about how Dr. King was taken from a jail in Atlanta and put in a paddy wagon in the middle of the night and taken all the way down to Reidsville. In that paddy wagon, it was just him and a German shepherd. “Martin, fortunately, grew up with a German shepherd,” Young said. Young went on to say that when King was jailed here in Americus, he had brought out some blankets and jackets so that King and the others with him would be warm. “They got cold at night,” Young said. “And I came out here with a bunch of jackets and piles and everything I could to scrape up to try to give people something to stay warm and Sheriff Chapel said ‘They should have thought of that before they broke the law’. And instead of letting me bring in some blankets, he turned the air conditioner on and pulled the coal away in one air conditioning fan and Martin Luther King said ‘He must be the meanest man in the world.’

Young also talked about how he met a young man named Jimmy Carter in a restaurant in Atlanta. “He talked funny and he looked funny,” Young said. “I could not conceive of myself supporting him as governor or anything else and then when I spoke to him, lo and behold, and said ‘The only thing I know about Sumter County is Sheriff Fred Chapel’. He said ‘Oh yeah, he’s a good friend of mine’.

Young stated that he went to Congress at about the same time as Carter became governor of Georgia and he stated that he wrote something to the effect that Carter would be the best person to defeat George Wallace. “They put it on the front page of the Village Voice,” Young said. “And they made a half million copies and put them all over the state of New York and Jimmy Carter not only won the New York primary, but then won the Florida primary. I was getting credit for helping elect a president.”

Young went on to say that once Jimmy Carter was elected president, Carter had asked him to be the US Ambassador to the United Nations. “I’m telling you all this to say that when you’re hanging around folks from South Georgia, crazy things happen,” Young said.

Young went on to say that the accomplishments that have happened in his life seemed impossible, but he had a grandmother that dreamed of him being successful.

“My grandma loved me, but as she was dreaming of success for me, blessed soul that she was, she could never dream that it may happen,” Young said. He added that people from South Georgia have always been a blessing to him and that he came down to Americus to speak because he feels indebted to Southwest Georgia. He also mentioned that Friday, June 7, would have been his 70th wedding anniversary to his wife of 40 years, who died of cancer.

Young continued his speech by talking about a highway that is slated to be built that will run from Savannah all the way out to Dallas, Texas. “It will be an interstate running through the middle of the South,” Young said. “The money is in the budget and we’re just waiting for the right time to build it so this area is going to open up economically in a way that you and I can’t understand.”

Young also talked about the Atlanta airport and how it has grown over the years to become the biggest airport in the world, downloading 110 million passengers a year going all over the world and earning $66 billion last year. “The airport didn’t cost us any money because we figured out how to go to Wall Street and borrow the money by selling tax exempt municipal bonds, which pay for themselves,” Young said.

Young also stated that since the time he was Mayor of Atlanta, they have bought $17 billion worth of bonds and paid them all off. “We don’t owe anybody anything,” Young said. “In the meantime, we brought the biggest Olympics ever to Georgia and we raised two and a half billion dollars with no taxpayer money.”

Young went on to say that they have found a way to make free enterprise work to help wipe out poverty and create jobs. He stated that there are over a million people whose jobs depend on the Atlanta airport and that Metropolitan Atlanta, which was a little hick town when he started there, had a $90 billion economy last year.

Young added that the city of Atlanta, from an economic standpoint, is about the size of Norway or Ireland. “There’s not a country in Africa, not Nigeria with 300 million people nor South Africa with all of its diamonds. None of them have the economy that Atlanta has,” Young said.

Young said that he mentioned all of that to try and stimulate the faith that he and his fellow civil rights workers had in the 60s, the kind of faith and spirit that is seen at Koinonia farms, where they believe there would come a day when people would be able to walk together. “I mean, we’re not many of us, but we all have that same faith that has brought us through many dangers, toils and snares,” Young said. “And you have survived by God’s amazing grace and God’s grace aint going away.”

After Young was finished with his speech, Mayor Lee Kinnamon gave a proclamation giving Young the “Keys to the City”. Then Jay Scott, Project Manager for the Americus Historic Colored Hospital, gave an update on how the project to restore it is coming along. He stated that the project has been awarded five different grants by the National Parks Service and $2.25 million has been raised so far. “Restoration is a tough thing, especially starting,” Scott said. “When you’re building a new house, you go get a plan, you got a contractor, they scrape the ground, and they build it and that’s it, but it’s really much more complicated when you’re looking at restoration.”

Scott went on to say that the project is now into construction and making good progress. “It’s not going to be used as a hospital, but it’s going to be used for more extensive gatherings,” Scott said. He went on to say that they will be submitting two more park service grants this year and he encouraged those in the audience to call senators Raphael Warnock, John Ossoff and Congressman Sanford Bishop to ask for more support. “We submitted to Congressman Bishop, but in its wisdom, the House Appropriations Committee decided that nonprofit organizations are not able to do economic development so they are not funding this,” Scott said. “But Congressman bishop can still have influence because the senators have recommended it to the appropriations committee.” Scott went on to say that he will be going up to Washington, D.C. to meet with them to try and convince them that this is one of the projects that needs to happen. Scott added that the parks service will pay to restore the building, but nothing more. “They will not pay for desks, or furniture or video equipment. They won’t pay for anything that’s going to be on the outside of the building so that’s the money that we have to raise if we get the money,” Scott said.

He went on to say that there is a lot more interest in people learning about African-American history and the history of the civil rights movement. “There’s this wealth of information and sites here to tie into all the other sites with downtown and we’re only 45 minutes from i 75,” Scott said. “This property here has the potential to be like a whole central place where people come and then go out around the city and you’re talking about millions of dollars potentially coming in here every single year. And that is what this is all about.”