As 2013 comes to a close, it’s a good time to remember what a momentous time it has been. It was a year of looking back and a year of looking forward, as Americans of all stripes celebrated elections and anniversaries, said goodbye to legendary figures and watched unforgettable scandals unfold.
The top story of the year was the passing of international civil rights luminary Nelson Mandela. Mandela’s death was mourned the world over and his life was honored by leaders from around the globe, including U.S. President Barack Obama. Mandela’s home-going memorial even spawned tabloid fodder as Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt was caught taking a selfie (the Oxford dictionary’s word of the year) with Obama and United Kingdom Prime Minster David Cameron. The image of the three went viral and fueled an internet firestorm of controversy, not the least bit quelled by First Lady Michelle Obama’s seemingly perturbed expression during the moment.
The president and first lady were the talk of much of 2013, with Obama holding his inauguration in January, this time as the first African-American president to be re-elected. The president joined former President Bill Clinton as the only two Democrats since Franklin Delano Roosevelt to win back-to-back terms.
Obama celebrated his victory by making a number of trips to Atlanta during the year, the most memorable of which was his visit to Morehouse College to speak at the school’s commencement ceremony. Obama delivered a powerhouse speech to the graduating class of 2013 and drew worldwide media attention to the city.
Obama also honored Atlanta by venerating one of the city’s legendary figures with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2013, Southern Christian Leadership Conference President Cordy Tindell “C.T.” Vivian was awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor. Vivian, a lieutenant of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was given the award at a ceremony inside the White House along with another architect of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Bayard Rustin. Rustin passed on in 1987, but his partner Walter Naegle accepted the medal on his behalf.
The year 2013 was also the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Civil rights leaders, including Vivian as well as Rev. Al Sharpton, Urban League President Marc Morial, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Martin Luther King III, John Lewis and others took to Washington to commemorate the momentous occasion in grand fashion.
It was a year of transformation around the world, but Atlanta saw sweeping changes that will forever alter the landscape the Peach City. Early in the year, Mayor Kasim Reed announced that a 30-year agreement had been reached to build a new stadium in downtown Atlanta for the Falcons. Before the year had ended, though, another of Atlanta’s professional sports franchises, the Braves, announced they would be leaving the city to move to a new stadium in neighboring Cobb County.
The team announced the move just weeks after Mayor Kasim Reed won re-election in a landslide victory. The mayor garnered nearly 40,000 votes in his bid for reelection, trouncing a trio of challengers. Much of the city council also won reelection bids, with Aaron Watson and H. Lamar Willis as the only incumbents who will not return to the council for another term. The two were defeated by Mary Norwood and Andre Dickens, respectively.
Atlanta’s school board, on the other hand, will look dramatically different in the coming year. Six of the nine board seats changed hands in the November elections, with Reuben McDaniel, who had led the board for two years, and former school board leader Brenda J. Muhammad both losing in their bids for reelection.
The Dekalb County School Board will also see major changes. Gov. Nathan Deal suspended and then replaced six school board members in 2013 after the Georgia Board of Education recommended their ouster. A nominating panel received a total of 403 applications and interviewed more than 60 applicants before narrowing the list to six finalists.
Dekalb County also saw its CEO, Burrell Ellis, indicted on extortion and theft charges. Ellis was replaced by Dekalb County Commissioner Lee May in July. Ellis is expected to stand trial in 2014.
So now, 2013 is ready for the history books.