Andrew Young to Receive Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Social Courage

Laura Diamond

Wednesday, July 25th, 2018

Andrew J. Young will receive the Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Social Courage, Georgia Institute of Technology President G.P. “Bud” Peterson announced.

Young’s lifelong dedication to public service and civil and human rights helped changed the course of history.

He was a key strategist and negotiator during the civil rights campaigns that led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. When he was elected to Congress in 1972 he was the first African-American representative from the Deep South since Reconstruction. President Carter appointed him as ambassador to the United Nations in 1977, making him the first African-American to hold that position. Young later returned to Atlanta, becoming mayor and leading the effort to bring the Olympics to the city.

Today the ordained minister continues to champion efforts to end poverty and hunger worldwide and works to support the next generation of visionary leaders. His life demonstrates how religion, education, politics and activism can be combined in ways to support the public good.

“It doesn't take courage when you know something is right,” Young said. “It takes determination and you see a vision and commit to it and you risk your life and your future.”

The Ivan Allen Prize honors those who demonstrate leadership to improve the human condition despite personal risks and challenges.

Young was born in New Orleans and attended segregated schools. He first became active in the civil rights movement as a pastor in southern Georgia in the 1950s. He organized voter registration drives and didn’t back down when faced with death threats. Later he became a close confidant of Martin Luther King Jr. and was instrumental in organizing desegregation efforts across the South.

As an ambassador he advocated for human rights on a global scale and helped negotiate an end to white-majority rule in Namibia and Zimbabwe.

During his two terms as mayor of Atlanta, Young laid the foundation for the city’s present-day international reputation. He attracted new businesses and billions in private investment, and worked to develop Hartsfield International Airport.  

Young has long had connections to Georgia Tech as well. He was a commencement speaker in December 2010, and the following year he returned to campus to participate in the first-year reading project.

Young will be honored during a series of events, scheduled for September 13 at the Biltmore, in Georgia Tech’s Technology Square. Planned activities include a town hall discussion for students. Details about how to register will be provided closer to the event.  

"As a confidant and advisor at a young age to Martin Luther King Jr., Andrew Young has earned his place in history as a giant of the American civil rights movement, but his efforts to build a more just world extend far beyond our borders and that historical era," Georgia Tech President G.P. "Bud" Peterson said. "His eloquent advocacy for human rights as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations helped cement his visionary legacy around the world, and he continues his tireless, compassionate work to improve the lot of the world's challenged communities through his Atlanta-based Andrew J. Young Foundation. As a successor to Ivan Allen Jr. in the Atlanta mayor's chair, it's altogether fitting that he will be honored as the 2018 winner of the Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Social Courage."

Ivan Allen was Yong’s mentor in urban affairs. Young described him as a person with a vision for creating sustainable urban futures.

“Georgia Tech students are blessed to be in this city because I think we are the city of the future, not that we have accomplished everything now, but that all of the basic ingredients of an amazing future are here in our midst,” Young said. “We have a kind of courage and vision that really is necessary for global transformation of the urban environment. So, the thing that has sustained me is the experience that everything we have believed in looked difficult when they were conceived.” 

The Ivan Allen Jr. Prize in Social Courage honors the people behind the efforts to improve the human condition. The award is named for former Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen Jr. and funded in perpetuity by a grant from the Wilbur and Hilda Glenn Family Foundation. Recipients are awarded a $100,000 stipend.

The inaugural prize was awarded in March 2011 to former Senator Sam Nunn. Past recipients include Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, U.S. Rep. John Lewis and humanitarian activist Nancy Parrish.