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Push to rename Hartsfield continues

By Justin Reedy

A movement to rename Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport after late Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson is picking up steam.

A group of community leaders met recently at Atlanta City Hall to promote the renaming, which they say would be a great honor for the recently deceased Jackson, the city's first black mayor and the man credited with expanding the airport's international presence. Not renaming the airport after Jackson would insult his legacy, according to Michael Langford, president of the United Youth-Adult Conference II and one of the movement's supporters.

The decision to rename Hartsfield airport – which is named for former Atlanta Mayor William B. Hartsfield – would lie in the hands of the Atlanta government. But with much of the airport situated in Clayton County and many businesses in the Southern Crescent relying on the airport for their livelihood, such a decision could affect residents and workers in Clayton and Henry counties, who are split on the issue.

Clayton County resident Marshall Gaddis doesn't think the airport should change its name.

"I don't see any reason why they should name the airport after (Jackson)," Gaddis said. "I knew him when he was mayor, and he was a fine mayor. But we've had a number of fine mayors, including Mayor Hartsfield."

But Jonesboro resident Regina Gregory thinks it would be nice to honor Jackson in such a way.

"He was the first black mayor of Atlanta, and he did a lot to promote minority businesses in the airport," Gregory said. "But if they didn't name it after him, I'd be OK with that, too."

Crandle Bray, chairman of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners, thinks changing the airport's name after years of being known simply as "Hartsfield" could hurt airport marketing efforts. And that could, in turn, cause a decline in business at the airport and drag down the metro area's economy, Bray said.

"They've got too much invested in their PR efforts," Bray said. "It seems to me we do have international recognition with the name ?Hartsfield International Airport.' We'll lose a lot of investment if they rename Hartsfield because you'd have to start all over again."

Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin has appointed a panel to determine how best to honor Jackson and late Mayor Ivan Allen, who died earlier this month. She supports giving consideration to renaming the airport after Jackson, but won't commit to whether she thinks the change should be made.

"I'm prepared to go through the process and have some serious discussions," said Franklin. "The airport is clearly one thing in the city he loved."

One proposal for renaming the airport calls for Jackson's name to be added while retaining Hartsfield's moniker – for example, "Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport."

But opponents to the name change say a better idea would be to name the new international terminal that will be built on the airport's east side after Jackson.

"They've got a golden opportunity, I think, with the new east side terminal," Bray said. "They could honor Jackson with that and retain the airport's identity."

Atlanta Councilman H. Lamar Willis agrees with Bray that naming the international terminal after Jackson is a better idea.

"I don't think you want to get into the habit of changing names," Willis said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.