Former two-term mayor of Atlanta, Shirley Franklin, will be serving as a visiting professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs this spring.
Franklin, who served as mayor of the city from 2002 to 2010, will be the college’s first Barbara Jordan Visiting Professor in Ethics and Political Values.
Robert Hutchings, dean of the LBJ School, announced Franklin’s position Tuesday. Hutchings said discussions about filling the professorship began last year.
“I had talked to some alumni, faculty, friends of the school and her name came early,” Hutchings said. “It was not a hard decision; Shirley Franklin is an inspirational figure. I see her playing a crucial national role later on.”
Franklin was the first female mayor of Atlanta and the first African-American woman to be elected mayor of a Southern city. She was also president of the National Conference of Democratic Mayors and was selected by Time magazine as one of the five best big-city mayors in 2005.
The Barbara Jordan Chair in Ethics and Political Values was created almost 15 years ago but remained vacant until Franklin’s appointment. Jordan was the first black woman elected to the Texas Senate and the first black woman from the South to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. She also served as a professor at the LBJ School from 1979 to 1996.
“Barbara Jordan’s legacy was so extraordinary that it was hard to find someone to fill it,” Hutchings said, “which is why the position was vacant for so long.”
Franklin said she is humbled to have her name associated with Jordan.
“When I think of Barbara Jordan I think of integrity, intelligence, courage, persuasion and compassion for the poor,” Franklin said. “I am so thankful.”
Franklin visited UT for the first time in the fall of 2012, when she met with community leaders, students, faculty and representatives of the LBJ Foundation, a nonprofit that supports the college and the LBJ Presidential Library. Franklin said she is looking forward to her new role.
“Austin is a city that for a very long time mayors looked for best practices and innovation,” Hutchings said. “I am looking forward to see what the students have to tell me.”
Hutchings said that he is very proud to have Franklin among the faculty, although her role and the classes she will teach have not yet been determined.
“More than a specific set of responsibilities, she adds an ethical and moral dimension to the school and the University that we didn’t have before,” Hutchings said. “We are still to talk which classes in specific she might even be giving.”
Franklin is interested in studying trends in megaregions, shaping environmental policy and fighting poverty. Franklin will also play a crucial role in the development of a new urban management program.
“I don’t have the typical credentials of an academic, but I have a lot of practical experience,” Franklin said. “You will find that I have a long history in the issues of fighting poverty and homelessness. There is a lot of expertise in government, and I would like to help build bridges.”
Junior economics major Eric Alanis, who is also an aide at the Texas Capitol, said Franklin’s appointment is a great opportunity for students.
“We have the opportunity to study with and meet with one of the best public administrators there is,” Alanis said. “She is committed to reform and isn’t afraid of big challenges: deficit, inefficiency, structural investment, you name it.”