Atlanta Re-opens the 1970s Missing and Murder Children Cases

H. Michael Harvey, JD
5 min readMar 27, 2019
Photo by Ronny Sison on Unsplash

Over 40 years ago, the city of Atlanta, Georgia closed the books on the “missing and murdered” children cases. From about1977 through 1981, 28 Black children and young adults disappeared from Atlanta streets in an impoverished section of the city.

These youngsters, both male, and female were never again seen alive. Fear gripped Blacks in the city “too busy to hate.” The law enforcement authorities and the mainstream media was slow to recognize there was a mass murderer afoot in Atlanta.

In the early days, save for reports in the Black-owned Atlanta Daily World newspaper, there was hardly any coverage given to this story. Without media coverage, the police were slow in recognizing there might be a connection to the missing children reports that were mounting at the pace of a disco drum-beat.

When the child murders started, Maynard Jackson had just become the first Black person elected mayor in a major southern city. The white power structure that had run things in Atlanta since 1847 did not adjust well to the loss of their political power base at city hall.

Tension mounted when Jackson sought to replace the Chief of Police with Reggie Eaves, a law school classmate from Boston, Massachuset. The old chief vowed not to move out of his office. Gun-toting officers on both sides stared each other down. Jackson eased tensions by creating the position of Public Safety Commissioner. He hired Eaves for this position and placed the Chief of Police under the command of the Public Safety Commissioner, within no time, the Chief retired.

Jackson outsmarted the old bosses at every turn. Then reports of missing and murder children began to pop up until the city and police could no longer pretend that something was not amiss.

This week, Atlanta Mayor Keshia Lance-Bottom, a teenager when the missing and murder children case arose, called for a new investigation of these cases with the use of the twenty-first century forensic technology that was not available in the last quarter of the twentieth century.

Lance-Bottom says she is moved to call for a new investigation because her mind is not settled with the outcome of the research and the conviction of Wayne Williams.

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H. Michael Harvey, JD

Harvey is Living Now Book Awards 2020 Bronze Medalist for his memoir Freaknik Lawyer: A Memoir on the Craft of Resistance. Available at haroldmichaelharvey.com