At 90, Andrew Young Continues to View Life Through the Lens of a Pastor

An icon of the Civil Rights Movement, former U.S. Congressman, United Nations Ambassador, and mayor of Atlanta, Andrew Young continues to preach at Atlanta’s First Congregational Church on the third Sunday of each month.

Andrew Young (Public domain)
Andrew Young (Photo by Lauren Gerson, public domain)

Young is celebrating his 90th birthday with a four-day celebration March 9–12 dedicated to “peace and reconciliation.” And he is punctuating it with the release of his new biography The Many Lives of Andrew Young, by Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Ernie Suggs, which describes the book as “both a tribute to and an essential chronicle of the life of a man whose activism and service changed the face of America and whose work continues to reverberate around the world today.”

Young’s birthday celebration will begin with a live-streamed “Global Prayer for Peace” worship service at the First Congregational Church in Atlanta, followed by a peace walk.

The son of a dentist and a teacher, Young was raised in an affluent New Orleans neighborhood. He graduated from Howard University in 1951and in 1955, he earned a Bachelor of Divinity degree from the Hartford Theological Seminary in Connecticut.

Young served as director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which Martin Luther King Jr. established in 1957 to coordinate the actions of African American activists and regional protest groups across the south. He assisted Dr. King in his historic 1963 March on Washington. Young was a key strategist and negotiator in the campaigns in Birmingham and Selma that resulted in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Young was the first African American to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Georgia. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter, who has written the forward to his new biography, appointed Young U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations—the first time an African American served in that capacity.

Young also served two terms as mayor of Atlanta from 1981–1990.

In 1994, President Bill Clinton appointed Young to oversee the $100-million Southern Africa Development Fund.

Young recently told Religion News Service that ministry continues to play a major role in his life, just as it has defined every stage of his adult life.

“I have viewed everything I’ve done as a pastorate,” Young said. “I really thought of Congress as my 500-member church.”


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Civil Rights Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Andrew Young