What's In A Name? | Lester and Virginia Maddox Bridge

Aug 20, 2018

Many roads and bridges around Atlanta are named for former Georgia politicians. Listener John Flemming asked us why an I-75 bridge is named for Lester and Virginia Maddox. 

According to a 1999 Georgia senate resolution, the bridge where I-75 crosses the Chattahoochee is named for Georgia's 75th governor and his wife for several reasons.

Senate Resolution 151, which designates a bridge on I-75 as the "Lester and Virginia Maddox Bridge."
Credit Georgia General Assembly

Senate Resolution 151 says Maddox "earned the respect, friendship, and admiration of the members of the General Assembly and the citizens of Georgia" thanks to a "commitment to helping others...devotion to God...and his family." It goes on to say that because the state also experienced economic and population growth under Maddox, it was "only fitting and proper that former governor and the late Mrs. Maddow be honored by this state."

Maddox, who died in 2003, was an Atlanta restraunteur and owner of the Pickrick Restaurant. The diner was located on Hemphill Avenue in Atlanta until 1965. It shut down after Maddox decided to close the restaurant rather than comply with a court order to desegregate. 

The Georgia University of Technology purchased the property shortly after Maddox closed the Pickrick. In 2009, it leveled the building and turned the land into green space on campus. 

The Pickrick Restaurant at 891 Hemphill Street NW, circa 1950s
Credit Atlanta Time Machine

Maddox was a staunch segregationalist. The defiant symbol for his successful 1966 gubernatorial campaign was the pick handle. His New York Times obituary says the "Pickrick drumsticks," as they came to be called, symbolized Maddox's resistance to the Civil Rights Movement.

Despite his strongly-held controversial opinions, Maddox was popular among Georgia voters. He served in the Georgia governor's office for years (as governor from 1966-1970 and as Jimmy Carter's lieutenant governor from 1970-1974).

He unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Atlanta several times and for president in 1976. According to the Georgia Encyclopedia, Maddox voiced no regrets for his segregationalist beliefs.