PATCH — One of Atlanta's most distinguished residents is marking her 97th birthday on Thursday, while the city itself continues its effort to demolish her Peoplestown community of more than 50 years through eminent domain. Mattie Jackson has been an informal advisor to Atlanta mayors, city council members and others for decades. During her storied life, Jackson was part was part of a delegation that met with President Lyndon B. Johnson's cabinet about policies to protect the poor, which informed Johnson's signature legislation waging war on poverty in the U.S.
Jackson was also the community action leader for Equal Opportunity Atlanta from 1964 to 1988, and served on the Fulton Atlanta Community Action Authority for more than 30 years. In 1968, Jackson was awarded the Atlanta Journal Woman of the Year Cup for her efforts organizing and empowering southeast Atlanta communities. And she was a board member of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games in 1996, and was instrumental in securing a community benefits agreement when the Olympic Stadium was constructed. Jackson even ran with the Olympic torch that same year while in her 70s.
Now, Jackson's home is at the center of a massive urban renewal effort undertaken by the city. Over the past six years, the city's use of eminent domain has allowed it to take ownership of more than 20 houses on Jackson's block, all of which it has demolished. Plans are to build a park and retention pond to address water runoff issues, but Jackson is one of a handful of homeowners who has refused to sell.