By Joel Hall
While the majority of his life has been spent in Clayton County, Luther Maddox has done a little bit of everything.
Starting in January, he will be the first new mayor the city of Jonesboro has seen in 12 years.
Born in Lovejoy on March 25, 1941, to Luther and Frances Maddox, the new mayor was a student at the old Jonesboro Grammar School. His father was a laborer for the county, and his mother was a 42-year employee of the National Biscuit Company (NABISCO) on Murphy Avenue in Southwest Atlanta.
Maddox got his first job at the age of 12, sweeping up and stacking cans for Herbert's, a general store. The store once sat where the North Plaza Shopping Center on North Main Street now stands. On Friday nights and weekends, Maddox pumped gas and boxed up pecans at the Harvey Pecan Company on Highway 19/41. He would help ship them out by train at the Jonesboro Depot.
Maddox continued to work in the Jonesboro area as a butcher, and a school bus driver, and upon graduation from Jonesboro High School in 1959, served in the United States Army Reserve for six years at Fort Jackson, in Columbia, S. C.
He came back to Clayton County in 1965 and began working on the assembly line at the Ford Motor Company in Hapeville. While working at Ford, he earned an associate degree in business administration in 1976 from Clayton State University.
He later moved up at Ford to become a supervisor, and later, to lead engineer in the trim department. He was in charge of installing everything that goes inside a car, from the seats to the door panels.
Maddox worked at the Ford plant for 30 years until his retirement June 1, 1995. The day after, he began running a private consulting company, which supplied auto parts to Ford. His business dried up after the last car came off the Hapeville assembly line on Oct. 27, 2006.
"I've lived here all my life," said Maddox, who recalled most events with specific dates. At 66 years old, he said that his deep connection to the ups and downs of the Southern Crescent, and his diverse job history, gave him a good window into the needs of the citizens of Jonesboro.
"I learned more stuff working all those jobs than you could learn in four years of college," he said. "It gives you a well-rounded outlook."
On the surface, Maddox appears overconfident and even cocky, sometimes. In interviews leading up to the mayor's race, he referred to "when I am mayor," rather than "If, I am mayor." In a recent Board of Commissioners meeting, Chairman Eldrin Bell recognized elected officials in the audience and, by mistake, prematurely introduced Maddox as the mayor of Jonesboro.
Maddox stood and said that Bell was right the first time.
However, friends describe him as a thoughtful, deeply analytical thinker who always considers the consequences of his actions. Nancy Reeves, a Jonesboro resident, sat behind Maddox in her first-grade class and attended school with him until both graduated from Jonesboro High School in the class of '59.
"He was very studious," said Reeves. "He was one of the smartest people in our graduating class. He always had a book in front of him. He's doesn't wear his heart on his sleeve, but he's a good man."
Larry Boak, who recently ran for a seat on the Jonesboro council and lost, has known Maddox for the majority of his life. Boak's father was a sign painter in the city and worked on many public projects with Maddox's father, who operated a street-scraping truck, used to pave roads.
When their fathers weren't paying attention, Maddox and Boak -- who is three years older than Maddox -- would play on the heavy equipment. "We'd turn on and off everything, and when the guys came to work on Monday, they didn't know what it was going to do," joked Maddox.
Boak said that back in the 1950s, the two never imagined that they would be running for city offices. "We didn't aspire that much back then," said Boak. "We were more concerned with where our supply of bubble gum was coming from."
Knowing Maddox from childhood, Boak described him as a savvy business person who would spend the city's money wisely. "I know he has the best interest of the community here, particularly the businesses," said Boak. "He's a businessman and that's what we need. He'll be firm, but compromising ... he's not going to blow the money just because it's there ... he's going to get something for it."
Maddox earned a seat on the city council in 2000, and ran for mayor against Joy Day in 2003, but lost. In August, he left his second term on the council four months early to run for mayor again, and this time was successful, winning 271 votes to Day's 207 votes.
While successful this time around, Maddox said he considered the needs of his family before running again. With four grown children -- two biological, and two step-children -- he recently became the guardian of a 10-year-old granddaughter and an 18-year-old grandson.
"I waited to see how they were going to settle on it before I went into the mayor's race," said Maddox. "They came first. They adjusted well, and they are about as proud of me as I am of them."
Maddox said he considered being elected mayor a "great honor," and that he wants to make Jonesboro "an island in Clayton County," with more businesses and pedestrian-friendly venues.
"I'm proud of this town,"he said. "I would like the city to be where anyone can be proud to be from Jonesboro."