Preservationists Seek to Stop Georgia Tech From Razing a Landmark of the Civil Rights Movement

On the day after President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which banned racial discrimination in public accommodations including restaurants and hotels, Lester Maddox chased three black college students from his Pickrick restaurant in Atlanta. Maddox wielded a .38 caliber revolver and a pick ax. There was widespread publicity in the national press. African Americans set up pickets to protest Maddox’s refusal to admit blacks to the Pickrick restaurant. As a result, he became a national poster boy for racial segregation. Maddox closed the restaurant rather than comply with the nation’s new civil rights law. Georgia Tech bought the property. A year later in 1966, Maddox used his newfound celebrity to launch a successful campaign for the governorship of Georgia. Maddox died in 2003.

Now Georgia Tech wants to demolish the building that housed the Pickrick restaurant to make a park. But some historians want to preserve the building because of its historical importance to the civil rights movement. Civil rights landmarks in Atlanta and other cities have become important attractions drawing large numbers of tourists.

The decision will ultimately be made by the Georgia Tech board of regents.