Lyndon Wade, long-time community leader, former Urban League president, dies

Lyndon Wade based his life as a servant leader on the model set by his parents and the instructors who taught him at Atlanta’s Booker T. Washington High School and Morehouse College. He took the helm of the Atlanta Urban League in 1968 and shaped it into a powerhouse for uplifting urban communities for more than 32 years. He died on January 28, at 82 years old, leaving a family and community to celebrate his legacy of achievement in civil rights, healthcare and the promotion of equal opportunity for all.

In an interview he recorded in 2015 with Voices Across the Color Line Oral History Project at the Atlanta History Center, Mr. Wade urged everyone to continue to work for equality and justice and to build our city’s leadership base among the next generations.

Long regarded as one of Atlanta’s most effective community leaders, Mr. Wade was recognized by the Georgia Senate in 2000 with a resolution commending his contributions to the city, as he stepped down from the helm of the League. In 2010, the Urban League of Greater Atlanta presented him with its Legacy Award.

Born in segregated Atlanta, the young Lyndon Wade grew up under the influence of people who expected him to work hard to achieve his highest potential and to always help others. He always honored that expectation. After graduating from Morehouse, Mr. Wade earned a graduate degree from the Atlanta University School of Social Work. He took a job in his field in Pennsylvania, but was drafted into the military and stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina and then at a military teaching hospital at Fort Lewis in Washington State. He received an advanced certificate in psychiatric social work from the Menninger Clinic in Kansas and worked there before taking a position at Emory University Hospital in 1963. He was back at home and stayed in Atlanta, sharing his wisdom and expertise with our community for the rest of his life.  

Mr. Wade chaired Atlanta’s Bi-Racial Advisory Committee to the Atlanta Board of Education in the early 1970s, helping to forge the “Atlanta Compromise” that ended 15 years of court struggles to integrate Atlanta’s public schools. He also was one of the major architects of MARTA’s Affirmative Action program that resulted in hundreds of jobs opening up to minorities and women, and which produced more than $3 billion in contracts for minority and female entrepreneurs.

During the early 1970s, Mr. Wade applied his considerable influence to developing programs and incentives for minorities and women to enter the building trades (construction) elite crafts. He worked with the U.S. Department of Labor to impose a federal employment plan on the construction industry in the metropolitan Atlanta region. The plan served a guide for hiring and using minority and female workers in the construction industry nationwide, allowing people to enter well-paying jobs and gain a foothold into business ownership and the middle class.

As head of the Atlanta Urban League for three decades, Mr. Wade was a fierce advocate for economic empowerment. He created numerous programs to advance opportunity for thousands of people in the region, including Seniors in Community Service, Labor Education Advancement, Preparation for Employment, Career Exploration and Work Exposure, Ventures in Community Improvement, On-the-Job Training, Home Management and Maintenance Counseling, Manpower Analysis Training and Development program, and more.

To cherish his memory, Lyndon Wade leaves a wife, four adult children, two grandchildren and legions of people who benefitted from his dedicated service and enormous contributions to civil rights. Services for Mr. Wade will be announced later this week.