Washington Mayor Marion Barry was the first black mayor of a major American city to succeed another black mayor--not Mayor Andrew Young of Atlanta, as reported in the late editions of Tuesday's Style section.
In a darkened coliseum aglitter with 10,000 candles, Andrew Jackson Young Jr. tonight took the oath of office as the 55th mayor of this bustling southern city and became the first black mayor of a major American city to succeed another black mayor.
The mood was more upbeat nostalgia than somber, and iced five days of festivities, drawing black leaders from all over the country to savor a political victory in a season of black political setbacks. Washington Mayor Marion Barry hunkered down in the front row. The Rev. Jesse Jackson was cheered in a black pin-striped suit. Rep. Ron Dellums (D.-Calif.) hugged and kissed admirers. Washington Del. Walter Fauntroy signed autographs and wore a natty blue tuxedo with crushed velvet lapels.
"We had to wear our finest," Fauntroy grinned. "Andy Young is a very important part of not only our nation's history but the civil rights movement. I've shared his high moments and his trials, and I just wanted to share his inauguration with him."
There were even delegations from Africa, decked out in full ceremonial robes. Andy Young had them take a bow mid-speech. "Andy Young means a lot to Africa," said Chief Abudu Y. Eke, Nigeria's ambassador to the United States. "He's the one man who symbolizes America for Africans. He's been to Nigeria many times and shows that a black man in America can make it and hold his own."
And Africa means a lot to Andy Young, who pitched his candidacy largely on his ability to attract African business to Atlanta, now the city's first mayor with a foreign policy.
Chip Carter came as a delegate of his daddy, the ex-president who made Young U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Airline stewardesses in uniform volunteered their time with a bit of arm-twisting from their corporations. They smiled guests to their seats, adding another touch of class.
Clemmie Jones, 31, a lingerie saleswoman, wore her slinkiest lavender nightie -- her "cocoon gown," she called it -- --over an orange pantsuit and a rip-away black "Venus" gown. She planned to peel off a few layers later, she said. But what she wore to bed would "depend on on what shape I'm in when I get home."
Young wore a gray suit, rabbit-punched Reagonomics and promised more police protection for the elderly and inner city children, a reminder of the two-year nightmare this city lived through while more than a score of its black children turned up missing and murdered. He was inaugurated on the same day a jury was selected blocks away in the trial of Wayne B. Williams, 23, the free-lance TV cameraman and self-styled talent scout accused of two of those 28 murders, the most sensational series of crimes in the city's history. The superior court judge in that case, Clarence Cooper, swore Young in.
A former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, two-term congressman and quiet point-man for slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., Young reminded the well-heeled largely black middle-class crowd of 10,000 who half-filled the Omni Coliseum that the civil rights struggle made it possible for him to succeed Maynard Jackson, barred by law from a third term. But his victory didn't mean the black voting majority can forget the city's white minority, he told them.
"Those who know what it feels like to be taken for granted can't forget the bitter fruits when we were invisible men and women," he said. The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra warmed the crowd with Beethoven's Fifth and The Inaugural Children's Choir, decked out in white shirts and ties, finger-snapped their way through a gospel favorite, "I'm Gonna Say Move When the Spirit Say Move."
It was a night redolent with symbolism for readers of the black experience. The Rev. Jesse Jackson described Young as a "cleary visionary" leader who was "overqualified" for the job. "For a white man with the same qualifications, the mayor's job would be a steppingstone to the Senate or the presidency," he said. "Racism will limit Andy's role, but not his service."
"People just want to celebrate," said Fulton County Commission Chairman Michael Lomax, a youthful black political power here in his own right. "Andy Young has such status in the black community, anything he does will be viewed as more important than the office he holds." He smirked at critics who chided the city for spending $13,000 to rent the coliseum for what was billed as a "people's inauguration," free and open to everyone. "The only reason it raised attention is because it's black people doing it and white people observing."
But there were some amidst the love-fest who didn't cater to the notion of an exclusive $100-a-plate black-tie affair afterward. "That's getting a little too imperial for me," scoffed taxi-driver/politician John H. Lewis Sr. He labeled the post-inauguration party "an insult. Say a guy scratches up $100 for a ticket, how's he gonna get the money to rent a tuxedo, too?"