Marvin Arrington Sr., a legend in Atlanta civics, lies in state at City Hall

His fearless advocacy set an example for generations of officials that came after him.
Published: Jul. 27, 2023 at 6:09 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - In the Atlanta City Council chambers that bear his name, Marvin Arrington Senior lay in state, an honor reserved for only those who made immense contributions to the city.

Arrington Sr. was the foundation of the “New Atlanta,” a post-segregation version of the city that saw more inclusion and more diversity in government with him at the helm.

First elected in 1969 to the Atlanta Board of Aldermen – the body that would later become the city council – Arrington Sr. served for 25 years, 17 as its leader.

His fearless advocacy set an example for generations of officials that came after him, including current council president Doug Shipman.

“There are so many leaders now in this city who somehow trace back to Marvin Arrington Senior’s influence,” said Shipman. “He’s just one of those foundational figures in the history of our city and a lot of things that happen today, you may not know it, but they probably happen in part because of Marvin Arrington Sr.”

Arrington Sr. was breaking barriers long before he arrived at city council chambers. In 1965, he became one of the first two Black students to attend Emory University’s School of Law, later sitting on the school’s board of trustees.

He would also go on to be a Fulton County Superior Court Judge.

“Who has done the work?” current city councilmember Michael Julian Bond asked the crowd in attendance at Arrington’s service at City Hall on Thursday to thunderous applause. “Who has served this city? Who has made the difference to the people of Atlanta? I like to debate and I’ll debate you today, but we’ll both win because we both know the right answer. That is Marvin S. Arrington Sr., noble servant, who washed the feet of the people of Atlanta.”

“He loved debate, he loved that sort of discourse, and I think that influence of it being a deliberative body and how that works, and also the relationship between council president and the mayor, those traditions are ones that I still follow and that are still influencing how we work every day,” said Shipman.

The Atlanta City Council released the following statement.