Celebrating a Man of Many Lives

The Many Lives of Andrew Young 

Ernie Suggs

NewSouth Books, ISBN: 978-1-58838-474-4 

U.S. Ambassador Andrew J. Young’s high-profile career in public service is not quickly nor easily summed up. Nonetheless, The Many Lives of Andrew Young, by Atlanta writer Ernie Suggs, has delivered an important, celebratory touchstone while preparations are underway to celebrate Andrew Young’s 90th birthday on March 12, 2022, and spotlight his many accomplishments.  

The elegant, well-organized new biography from NewSouth Books is rich with details, anecdotes, quotes, photographs, and other features focusing on Young and the challenging world he has encountered and engaged with from childhood to today.  

Andrew Young in 1977 serving as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (Photo courtesy of Library of Congress )

A long-time civil rights leader and former mayor of Atlanta, Young grew up in New Orleans. His father, a dentist, taught him boxing and always told him: “Don’t get mad, get smart. Never lose your head when you get hit.” Always keeping that in mind, Young entered Howard University at age 15. Later, as a youthful pastor, he served congregations in Alabama and Georgia. He also joined the civil rights movement, became a close confidant to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and headed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Then came his first foray into national politics. 

“I didn’t want to get into politics,” he states in the book. “I always saw myself as a community organizer.” But one day, he met with famed singer Harry Belafonte. “I was talking with him and trying to get him to raise some money in case somebody wanted to run for Congress.” Belafonte responded by calling some big-name friends and telling them that Andrew Young would be running. Ernie Suggs writes: “He lost his first race in 1970 but was elected to Congress in 1972 representing parts of metro Atlanta. He won 95 percent of the black vote and 23 percent of the white vote, becoming the first black Representative from Georgia since Jefferson Long in 1871, during Reconstruction.”

In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed Young to be the 14th U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. His tenure as Ambassador brought some significant diplomatic successes but also kicked up a few international controversies. However, in 1981, President Carter presented him with one of America’s highest civilian awards, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

That same year, Young won his first of two terms as mayor of Atlanta and in 1996 became co-chairman of the 1996 Summer Olympics Games. Later, he co-founded Good Works International and the Andrew J. Young Foundation, which promotes human rights around the world. 

“You’ve heard all the things I’ve done or tried to do,” Young says in the book, “but none have been as much fun, or as successful, or where I feel we have accomplished as much, than being the mayor of Atlanta.” 

Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States, has written the book’s foreword, and Gaurav Kumar, President of the Andrew J. Young Foundation, has penned the book’s introduction. 

The author of The Many Lives of Andrew Young, Ernie Suggs, has been a reporter at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution since 1997. He is also the publisher of the newspaper’s weekly, Black-oriented newsletter, “Unapologetically ATL.” 

Special thanks to NewSouth Books for providing an early reading copy for review.

— Si Dunn

#bookreview #civilrights #politics #diplomacy


Si Dunn is a writer, screenwriter, photojournalist, and book reviewer in Austin, Texas.


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