Illustration for article titled Andrew Young Jr. Bio

He was one of the key negotiators during some of the most critical moments of the civil rights movement, and he would go on to become the mayor of Atlanta and the United States' ambassador to the United Nations. Andrew Jackson Young Jr. died DATE TK at the age of TK of TK.


He was born on March 12, 1932, in New Orleans to Andrew J. Sr., a dentist, and Daisy Fuller Young, a schoolteacher. Andrew Jr. and his younger brother "grew up as the only black children in a middle-class, predominantly Irish-and-Italian neighborhood."

After graduating from a private high school, Gilbert Academy, in 1947, Young enrolled at Dillard University. He transferred to Howard University to become a dentist like his father, but after graduating in 1951 with a bachelor of science degree in biology, he felt a religious calling and entered Hartford Theological Society in Connecticut to become a minister. It was during his four-year study that he became heavily influenced by the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi and concluded that he could "change this country without violence."


While in divinity school, he met his first wife, Jean Childs. They married in 1954 and had four children: Andrea, Lisa, Paula and Andrew III. (Jean died of cancer in 1994; Young married Carolyn Watson two years later.)

After becoming an ordained United Church of Christ minister in 1955, he went on to pastor churches in Marion, Ala., and in the small southern-Georgia towns of Thomasville and Beachton. In 1957 Young was named associate director of the Department of Youth Work for the National Council of Churches in New York. In that position, he initiated a voter-education project funded by the United Church of Christ.

While working on that project, he was introduced to Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Young moved from New York to Atlanta in 1961 to work with the SCLC; he quickly became a key strategist and one of King's top aides.

At the SCLC, he organized a training program that taught students nonviolent strategies to register black voters and worked closely with other SCLC leaders, including the Rev. Ralph Abernathy. Young stood side by side with King during civil rights campaigns in Birmingham, Ala., in 1963; St. Augustine, Fla., in 1964, when he was brutally beaten; and Selma, Ala., in 1965.


When King and Abernathy were incarcerated for seven weeks in Albany, Ga., they depended on Young to take on many responsibilities. Young mediated between the SCLC and Albany police and subsequently served as a liaison between the organization and white Southerners. In 1964 King made Young executive director of the SCLC. Young would continue to play a critical role in the civil rights movement by helping to draft the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965.

He was also at the Memphis hotel where King was shot and killed on April 4, 1968.


In 1970 Young resigned from the SCLC to run for a seat in the House of Representatives as a Georgia Democrat. He lost the race to the conservative white incumbent, but he ran again in 1972, and this time he won, becoming the first African-American congressman since Reconstruction elected to represent Georgia.

Young would be re-elected twice, in 1974 and 1976. While in office, he became a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and was active in foreign relations, including the push to end support for Portugal's continued hold on its colonies in southern Africa. He opposed the Vietnam War and helped to promote legislation that led to the creation of the U.S. Institute of Peace.


In 1977 President Jimmy Carter appointed Young ambassador to the U.N., the first time an African American had held that position. Young became one of the first political figures to call for sanctions against apartheid South Africa, and he advocated for U.S. recognition of communist Vietnam. He also orchestrated a settlement in Rhodesia with Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nikomo — eventually resulting in the establishment of Zimbabwe. But he had a stormy tenure at the U.N.: After making controversial statements about Israel on the TV show Meet the Press in 1979, including a reference to the country as "stubborn and intransigent," and also meeting with representatives from the Palestine Liberation Organization — a violation of U.S. policy — he resigned from the post.

Young was elected mayor of Atlanta in 1981, succeeding Maynard Jackson, and re-elected in 1985 with more than 80 percent of the vote. He attracted billions of dollars' worth of new private investment in the city. He also expanded projects that had been established during Jackson's administration, including those that gave minority- and female-owned businesses greater access to city contracts. In 1990 Young lost his bid to become the Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia.


As a private citizen, Young became co-chairman of Good Works International, a consulting firm that provides companies with access and "political risk analysis on emerging markets within Africa and the Caribbean. He also founded the Andrew Young Foundation to "support and promote education, health, leadership and human rights in the United States, Africa and the Caribbean." In 1996 he penned his autobiography, A Way Out of No Way: The Spiritual Memoirs of Andrew Young.

Young received numerous awards, including the NAACP's Spingarn Medal in 1978 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award, in 1981. A number of academic institutions and programs were named after him, including Morehouse College's Andrew Young Center for International Studies, formerly the Center for International Studies; and the Andrew Young School of Public Studies at Georgia State University, where Young was a professor. He also received dozens of honorary degrees, from universities such as Dartmouth, Yale, Notre Dame, Clark Atlanta and Emory. He was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and the black professional fraternity Sigma Pi Phi.

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