"Lead, follow or get out of the way," said Ted Turner, entrepreneur, media mogul and philanthropist.
One of the highlights of the 2019 Georgia Bulldog football season, was the naming of Dooley Field in Sanford Stadium in Athens to honor legendary former UGA football coach and Athletic Director, Vince Dooley. The honor was well over-due.
I think Georgia, and our capital city of Atlanta, should do more, and sooner than later to recognize two other individuals, as well as two families who have made many historic and lasting contributions to Atlanta and to Georgia. I'm speaking specifically of former Ohio Governor James Cox and the Cox family and media mogul and environmental philanthropist Ted Turner.
Cox was a former three-term Governor of Ohio before he ran for President in 1920, with Franklin Delano Roosevelt as his unsuccessful running mate. Traveling the country by rail, F.D.R. introduced Cox to Warm Springs, southern hospitality and the people of Georgia. Though Dayton, Ohio remained the Governor's home, he would move much of his family and business holdings to Atlanta, initially purchasing The Atlanta Journal & Georgian in 1938, and eventually growing those properties into Cox Enterprises and the Cox Media Group.
Turner turned a modest billboard company into the nation's first cable Super-Station, investing in cable networks and programming in their infancy, as well as serving as a longtime owner of the Atlanta Braves. Turner became a billionaire before selling his many media holdings to Time Warner, later getting into the restaurant business, in part to restore the species of Buffalo to the plains of North America.
When the Atlanta Braves, under new ownership, left for the suburbs of Cobb County and the likely soon to be renamed SunTrust Park, that ended the name of Turner Field and the life of a baseball stadium just over 20 years old. Though it was assumed that the name came as Turner's Braves were the 'home team' at the converted baseball park, retro-fitted from the Centennial Olympic Stadium after those games in 1996, it is seldom shared or publicized that Turner spent more than $40-million stabilizing and retro-fitting that structure for baseball and the fans, without seeking tax-payer assistance, subsidies or tax breaks.
Jim Cox Kennedy, grandson of Governor Cox and still the Chairman of Cox Enterprises, earlier developed a passion for bike riding which would grow into the creation of the PATH Foundation. PATH's first trail connected Stone Mountain Park to downtown Atlanta and Centennial Park and over the past 25 years has constructed more than 300 miles of pedestrian and biking trails all across Georgia.
The Cox Foundation recently co-funded a pedestrian bridge with the City of Atlanta, named for former Mayor Ivan Allen, Jr., which connects the Atlanta Beltline to those PATH trails at Marietta Street downtown, not far from the former AJC headquarters, and reconnects the downtown Eastside and Westside, straddling the massive and exiting railroad tracks of CSX and Norfolk Southern.
The Cox family through another gift to the PATH Foundation, are funding an extension of the Atlanta Beltline and PATH, connecting to the Silver Comet Trail in Cobb County. When completed, this trail will reach from Stone Mountain Park to Anniston, Alabama and become the longest continuous trail path in the United States.
Those who have previously blocked more substantial recognition for the Cox or Turner families have focused on their personal politics or others flaws and foibles. None of us are perfect and we should stop expecting perfection among our community and business leaders.
The Cox family still owns the Atlanta Journal & Constitution, and the new owners of Cox Media Group plan to keep that name, And while Turner's name continues to adorn a several blocks of Spring Street in downtown Atlanta, and parts of his former corporate campus now owned by Time-Warner Media, more significant and visible honors are well overdue both families.
Some students at Georgia State University have recently called on Atlanta’s Mayor to remove the downtown statue of another newspaper giant, Henry W. Grady, another impactful but flawed leader of the post-Civil War ‘New South.’ Grady’s name adorns Grady Hospital, Grady High School and the Grady College of Journalism at the University of Georgia. I don’t support his name or statue coming down, but those are a few fine examples worthy of like consideration for Ted Turner as well as Ohio Governor Jim Cox and the Cox family.