Garfield Maddox, a devout segregationist, owned and operated
a restaurant called the “Pickrick Cafeteria,” that was located
at 891 Hemphill Avenue near the Georgia
Tech campus. As
depicted in this WSB clip, after Maddox had renamed it the
Lester Maddox Cafeteria in the Fall of 1964, the restaurant itself
was known more for what it represented than for its good food
and affordable prices. Maddox and his customers supported segregation
and opposed the federal government's intervention in such policies.
The Pickrick was open only to white customers and refused those
who were black or those who were considered integrationists. The
restaurant featured a wide selection of free segregationist literature
and the “Make a Wish for Segregation” wishing well. Although Maddox
owned the restaurant to make a living, he utilized its ability to
attract media attention to voice his opinions and to gain support
in the community.
The restaurant faced several problems, the largest of which was
Rights Act of 1964 that made racial segregation illegal. It
was Maddox’s open defiance of the Civil Rights Act that thrust him
into the national spotlight. In 1964, he refused to serve three
black students and chased them out with a gun while his white customers
used axe handles. He contended that both his business and property
were being threatened.
The federal government took Lester Maddox to court in the case Willis
v. Pickrick Restaurant (1964), and ordered him to desegregate
within twenty days. Rather than own an integrated restaurant,
Maddox sold the Pickrick to two of his previous white employees,
Roy Duncan and Edward Piper.
L. Hollowell, the
civil rights lawyer depicted in this WSB clip, spoke out against
Lester Maddox. His actions as a lawyer had included defending the
Reverend Dr. King and hundreds of other foot
soldiers for civil rights. He also participated in cases that
desegregated buses and integrated public facilities. Hollowell’s
opinion of Lester Maddox was highly regarded in the Atlanta community'
Hollowell's actions encouraged others to speak out against or
challenge Maddox’s opinions. A majority of other elite figures,
including former Georgia state representative Billy McKinney (father
of the politician Cynthia McKinney), considered Maddox as the
quintessential symbol of southern racism.
During his ownership of the Pickrick, Maddox twice ran for mayor
of Atlanta and
lost. In October 1965, he announced that he would seek the Democratic
nomination for governor. True to his reputation, he ran a grass-roots
campaign on platform based on segregation and resisting federal
encroachment on state and individual rights. This proved effective
for a majority of Georgia voters--Maddox was sworn in as governor
on January 10, 1967.
To the surprise of many, Maddox instituted many social reforms,
such as improving the prison system and promoting African Americans
into more prominent government positions. He was the first Georgia
governor to appoint an African American as the head of a state department--the
Board of Corrections. He was also instrumental in the state's hiring
of its first African American state trooper, its first African American
Georgia Bureau of Investigations (GBI) agent, and its first African
American members of draft boards.
Despite these positive measures, these actions were often seen
as insincere. In 1968, for example, Maddox ordered a heavy police
presence at the funeral procession of Dr. King, and he would not
allow state facilities to fly the state flag at half mast. Maddox
also opposed many civil rights agendas that were being pursued by
the Democratic Party on a national level.
In 1971, after serving four years as governor, Maddox became lieutenant
governor under the governorship of Jimmy
Carter. The two men were constantly at odds and often brought
their differences to light in the public eye. Maddox’s years with
Carter proved to be his last in elected office. He lived the rest
of his life riddled with medical problems and died in 2003.
Maddox's battles with the federal government and attorney Hollowell
demonstrate the importance of court decisions in mediating civil
rights disputes and pushing forward an agenda of integration and
equality. From desegregating public facilities and forms of transportation,
to affirming the legality of interracial marriages, to extending
the right to vote to all citizens, the courts were integral to the
success of the Civil
Rights Movement in Georgia. Their role in such matters underscores
the crucial nature of executive appointments of federal judges.
Resources (click here)
Printable Version (click here)
1. Go to the New
Georgia Encyclopedia essay on Lester
Maddox. Click on the right-hand video clip entitled "Lester
Maddox: MLK Jr. Funeral." What do his remarks tell us about
"states' rights" meant to segregationists like him?
2. Do you think that Maddox ever regretted his actions? Or, did
he act differently in order to be viewed differently by society?
3. Why might African Americans knowingly work at a restaurant that
was owned by a segregationist?
4. Did Maddox's views and the actions taken against him help bring
awareness of the Civil Rights Movement or did they hinder the Movement
5. Research the position of Governor Jimmy Carter on race. Why
would he have selected Lester Garfield Maddox as his lieutenant
Take it to the Streets!
As we were editing this essay for our site, one of our Research
Assistants, Aggie Ebrahimi, discovered that she grew up in East
Cobb County just a few doors down from Lester Maddox's house. She
remembers that he displayed a sign, an anniversary present, that
thanked God for giving him his wife. Forty-five days later, he added
to the sign a lament that she had died. This sentimental side of
Maddox may contrast with the public persona that is often associated
with him. Choose one person from this list of public figures below.
Write a story that depicts this person in a different light from
how he or she is typically viewed. Make certain that you do not
name the individual in your story. Then, read your story to your
classmates and ask them to identify the person you wrote about.
President George Walker Bush
"Dice-K" or Daisuke Matsuzaka of the Boston Red Sox
Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shi'a leader of the Mahdi Army in Iraq
Colin Powell, former U.S. Secratary of State
Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías, President of Venezuela
Cynthia Ann McKinney, GA-Dem., U.S. House of Representatives, 1993-2003,
Grimes, Ivy Howard, Seth Headrick, Victor Lane, Rebekah Martin,
Colby McCulley, and Jacqueline McMullenin Dr. Barbara McCaskill's
AFAM/ENGL 3230 class (Survey of African American Literature) at
The University of Georgia, Spring 2007.
Editors and Researchers: Lauren Chambers,
Christina L. Davis, Aggie Ebrahimi, Courtney Thomas, and Professor
Web Site Designer: William Weems
Freedom on Film is not responsible
for the content of external web sites.