Shirley Franklin Makes History as a Woman and African American

Howard University Alum, Shirley Franklin made history twice in 2002 by becoming the first female mayor of the city of Atlanta and the first Black woman to serve as mayor of a major southern city.

A native of Philadelphia, Mayor Franklin received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Howard University in sociology and then went on to earn a Masters of Art degree in also in sociology from the University of Pennsylvania. In May of 2002, she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Law degree from Howard University, her first her alma mater.  

Though her run for mayor Atlanta marked her first experience as a candidate for public office, Franklin was elected after receiving an overwhelming percentage of votes.

But her call for public service did not begin in 2002 as she became the 58th mayor of the city of Atlanta. By that time she had nearly 25 years of experience in public service.

Mayor Franklin began her career in public service in 1978 when she served as the Commissioner of Cultural Affairs under the mayor of Atlanta at that time, the late Maynard Jackson. She then went on to serve under Andrew Young, another former mayor of Atlanta, as Chief Administrative Officer.

During her reign in public office she has been credited with guiding the development of Underground Atlanta, a popular tourist attraction of the city, organizing and heading up various liaison committees for the 1996 Olympics held in Atlanta. She was also instrumental in revitalizing the historic East Lake Community in Atlanta. 

Since taking office as mayor, Franklin has continued to push for changes that will make the city of Atlanta a better place to live, visit and work.  She has down things that will improve the city such as ethics reform, jumpstarting the $5.4 billion expansion of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and creating the Clean water Atlanta Advisory Panel.

The mayor is also viewed as being sociable and in tune with the needs of the residents of Atlanta as she regular hosts “Mayor Night In,” giving employees and residents a chance to share their views and ideas with her.

Because of Mrs. Franklin’s hard work, the city of Atlanta received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association in 2004.