By Editorial Intern, Malik Gill
Atlanta can be classified as one large hub—a hub for business, entertainment, entrepreneurship, excitement, culture and history. There is a proportionate mix of every city in the heart of Atlanta. Corporate Attorney, Curtis Mack is a prime example of those who have benefited from what Atlanta has to offer. Born and raised in Valdosta, Ga., on a small farm, the Michigan State University graduate was the youngest in his high school class. Recognized as “destined to be one of the top African-American lawyers in the country” by Black Enterprise in 2006, Mack negotiated a number of partnerships, including the link between the Kellogg Company and the University of Michigan. Despite his frequent travels, the attorney and father of three remains in Atlanta.
AT: Do you prefer the Braves, the Falcons, or the Hawks? Why?
Mack: The Hawks. Since high school, I have always been more of a basketball fan. The Hawks are exciting to watch and usually employ players from the University of Michigan or Michigan State to their roster. Because they are generally a good team, I am encouraged the Hawks will have a good season.
AT: What was it that attracted you to Atlanta versus other major cities?
Mack: Atlanta was blessed to have some of the great minds and persons of our time living here such as Daddy King, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and former Mayor Maynard Jackson Jr., who worked extremely hard to make Atlanta a welcoming place for all races. I came here, blessed with the opportunity to get to know all of them except Dr. King, who had been assassinated. Specifically, Maynard Jackson Jr., the first African-American lawyer to work at the National Labor Relations Board in Atlanta. When Maynard was hired, the regional director adamantly opposed his employment because he was African American. Upon his retirement, I was the immediate successor appointed by the U.S. government. Through my relationship with Maynard, I was able to meet many great individuals in Atlanta of all races.
AT: If you weren’t residing in Atlanta, where could you see yourself living? Why?
Mack: Ann Arbor, Mich. I am just so happy and in love with the University of Michigan. I often refer to it as the “heavenly place” because of its intellectual environment, focus on environment, quality of life, and culture of bringing people together.
AT: The Metropolitan Atlanta area possesses more suburban African American home owners than any other Metropolitan Statistical Area, and ranks behind most MSA’s in terms of providing its poorer residents with access to progress in society. What steps could be taken systematically to assist in the elevation of the lower class?
Mack: I think the folks at the lower end of the range could be helped if we devoted more time and resources to improving hope and self-confidence towards their educational achievement. I am currently working with an organization called Page Turner’s Make Great Learners. Our goal is to expose kids from lower income areas to the joy of reading. Research shows that proficiency in reading is a big contributor to where we end up in life. I am of the opinion that reading proficiency and a desire for reading contributes greatly to a person’s motivation for learning. I think if we did more of that, our less fortunate generation could have a much better opportunity to reach better places in the world.
AT: In what ways has Atlanta contributed to your success?
Mack: Atlanta has contributed to my success in revealing to me that the world is a changing place. I remember interviewing with the an Atlanta law firm in 1972, as a student at the University of Michigan Law School. I was told that I would not be considered for employment because the firm did not have any African-American lawyers, and were not going to hire any. The individual never asked me anything about my grades or performance, and had no interest in what I had done as a student. Today, we see a lot of African Americans and women working in the law firms in Atlanta and around the country. The diversity in the legal profession in Atlanta was caused by some of the change agents in our city. In fact, some of the leaders in the legal profession, social communities, business world, and all aspects of Atlanta have been very helpful to me getting exposure with corporate America, politics and civic affairs. The same group helped me to realize and appreciate my obligation to help others and give back to the community. By following mentors’ advice, getting involved, and giving back to others, the city of Atlanta has played a major role in my success.