Ivan Allen Jr. served as mayor of Atlanta from 1962 to 1970, bringing significant economic growth and providing pivotal leadership during the turbulent years of the Civil Rights Movement. In 1963, President Kennedy personally asked Mayor Allen to testify before Congress in support of a federal law mandating desegregation of public accommodations.
Allen gave his testimony in July 1963 before the Senate Commerce Committee, risking his political career and his relationship with the Atlanta business community. Allen’s support of what became the 1964 Civil Rights Act increased his standing in Atlanta’s black community and cemented his personal commitment to progress on civil rights. During his reelection campaign in 1965 when meeting with African American groups, Allen displayed the green leather-bound book of his Congressional testimony and read from the actual transcript.
Allen was largely responsible for the construction of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium and for bringing major league sports franchises to the city. His years as mayor were marked by a 30% increase in the city’s population, helping spur a downtown building boom, and development of I-285 and the downtown connector to help manage the increasing traffic.