Tales of Old Atlanta – The photojournalism of Boyd Lewis 1969-79.

This chapter may disappoint some gung-ho Atlanta boosters who may ask: Where are the pretty pictures of the skyline at sunset and lovely, leafy neighborhoods? To them, I say get one of those pricey enameled coffee table books assembled by Norman Shavin and revel to your heart’s content in splendid civic mythology. It’s just my particular and somewhat skewed vision that’s on display here. I was the “white boy with the black press” and saw the different visions in my viewfinder as I wandered through the wonderment that was Atlanta on the make in the post-King decade.

A couple and their trailer home in what used to be the Bedford Pine community on Boulevard in 1971. In the background, Peachtree Center rises in Atlanta’s new downtown just north of Five Points. Bedford Pine residents were promised nice, new affordable homes. Instead, developers put up gated communities for the rich wanting “in-town living.” Oh, Atlanta.

The Stone Mountain granite of a 19th century Atlanta building’s foundation emerges in 1972 like an archeological dig in Sumeria as past yields to future. When the streets were being ripped up as part of the Olympic Games refit of downtown, thousands of granite blocks that once served as streets in the horse and buggy era were exposed and piled on sidewalks. I purloined about a dozen blocks and put them in my back yard garden in Candler Park. I admit the crime. When do I do the time?

WXIA-TV plastered the city with signs in the mid- 70s like this one on a trash container downtown to promote its glitzed up news product. Originally, it read “Atlanta’s proud new tradition.” How something could be both new and a tradition remains a mystery. So does the concept of “Eyewitness News.”

Atlanta’s skyline seen from the southeast in 1971.The sparkling go-go urban powerhouse of the 70s had more children below the poverty line than any American city except Newark, N.J. At this time, whites were fleeing the city.

The relentless demolition of old buildings downtown exposed this startling relic of an even older Atlanta in a photo from 1974. Vaudeville performances in the Forsyth Theater probably ended around 1930. And this glorious old artifact was soon reduced to rubble, its bricks likely becoming part of somebody’s fireplace in Gwinnett County.

The traffic on the Downtown Connector in 1974 seems quaintly free-flowing and fast moving compared to today’s gridlocked parking lot stretching horizon to horizon.

In a little park off Five Points since replaced by the gaudy entrance to Underground Atlanta, a man is struck by a powerful thought, observed by pigeon. In the background is the name of a vanished bank. Scene in 1971.

A boy jumps for the future in this 1971 scene on Capitol Avenue.

Theology at Edgewood and Boulevard, 1976.

Kelly’s Feed and Seed Marching Abominables hauls its iconic paper mache head of 19th Century painter Toulouse Lautrec through Inman Park for the neighborhood’s annual festival in 1975.

Next week, Chapter Six The rise of Andy Young


This free webzine is meant for your entertainment and information only. All photographs copyright Boyd Lewis/Atlanta History Center. Except as permitted under the Copyright Act of 1976, these images may not be reproduced in whole or in part with permission in writing from copyright owner. For information, contact Boyd Lewis.

Boyd Lewis

Boyd Lewis

New Orleans family. War baby. Family moved a lot. Secondary and college education in Memphis, TN. Just before 1967 graduation, commissioning and tour of leafy, lovely Vietnam, banged up in auto accident. Decided to go into journalism. Tennessee mountain weekly, small Mississippi daily and nearly three decades in Atlanta. Black and alternative newspapers, freelance photojournalist, public radio news and documentary producer, news writer for CNN. Married Deborah James, followed her to Los Angeles for job. Quit the dismal trade and became middle school English teacher in LA barrio school. Quite happy.

  1. Excellent work, Boyd; more, please.

    Do you have any photos of the various incarnations of Underground, like say, before it was glossed up?

  2. Terri Evans

    Thanks for the memories, Boyd. I recall the oxymoronic (especially the moron part) of the WXIA slogan. The shot of the same on a trash bin was a perfect place to capture it. I also loved seeing the “Jet Delta” sign, which I remember. Looking forward to seeing more.

  3. Terri Evans

    One more thing on the WXIA slogan – there were several of us who referred to it as the “proud new contradiction in terms.”

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