Late mayor's name flies on airport title

By Greg Gelpi

Clayton County residents expressed mixed thoughts on the changing of the name of Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport.

"I don't like change that much, but I like that," Andrea Labossiere said. She recalled waiting on Atlanta Mayor Maynard Holbrook Jackson, Jr. at a local restaurant before he died, adding that he always tipped well and didn't mind when she accidentally dropped bread on him.

Changing the name is a fitting tribute for him, she said.

The Atlanta City Council approved several name changes to Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport Monday afternoon.

After months of discussion, the Council voted 12-2 to change the name of the airport to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to honor the former mayor.

"It's not so much of a concern to me in my life right now the name of an airport," county resident Justin Brown said.

The airport, originally named after Atlanta Mayor William B. Hartsfield, who initiated the building of the airport in the 1920s, was amended to include the name of Atlanta Jackson, the city's first black mayor.

Members of the Hartsfield family weren't as pleased as others, though.

"It's a little bit of a disappointing day, but I knew what to expect," Dale Hartsfield said, adding that the family is pleased the Council decided not to drop "Hartsfield" from the airport's name entirely. "It's certainly better than what it could have been. I told someone that I would have had a stroke if that would have happened."

Many blacks felt Jackson's expansion of the airport in 1973, an expansion which made it one of the busiest in the world, justified naming it solely after him.

"I feel it is a fitting and worthy tribute," Valerie Jackson, the late mayor's widow, said after the final decision.

Hartsfield was surprised by the heated exchanges that occurred during the meeting. After months of discussions, anything that brings the city together is a good thing, Hartsfield said.

"It blew up into something that I never expected," Hartsfield said. "I never expected so much debate. I never expected the name to change."

Months of emotional debates began in June when Jackson died at the age of 65. The debates continued for another two hours Monday as council members squabbled.

With the passage of the change, the Council also named the new international terminal after Jackson and named the domestic terminal after Hartsfield.

In a separate move, the Council unanimously approved placing life-sized statues of Jackson and Hartsfield at the airport.

"I'm not 100 percent sure what they're going to do," Hartsfield said. "I'm not sure they know what they're going to do."

A statue of former Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen will also be placed near Turner Field as decided by the Council. Allen, who was credited with helping bring racial harmony to Atlanta, "A city too busy to hate," died this summer.

Although the City Council approved the changes, nothing will be official until Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin approves the actions. She has two weeks to do so.

The cost for changing the name shouldn't be much, since most signs read "Atlanta Airport" without Hartsfield's name. Funding for the statues will come from the airport's public arts fund, Cathy Woolard, president of the city council, said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.