Atlanta Public Schools Have Long History Of Famous Graduates

Brenna Beech / WABE

Martin Luther King Jr., Margaret Mitchell, Johnny Isakson, Jasmine Guy. They all have something in common, a common connection. Can you guess what it is?

They all graduated from the Atlanta Public Schools system. And they’re not alone. Atlanta Public Schools has turned out many students who have gone on to do great things, changing the world in some way, climbing to the top of their fields in sports, music, politics and business.

Here are just some of the many well-known alumni who have called Atlanta home and graduated from the city’s school system.

1. Martin Luther King Jr.

A civil rights pioneer and Nobel Peace Prize winner, King is an alumnus of Booker T. Washington High School.

2. Lena Horne

A popular actress, singer and civil rights activist, Horne’s career spanned 70 years in television, movies and on Broadway. She is a graduate of Booker T. Washington High School.

3. Evander Holyfield

The three-time world heavyweight champion is a graduate of Fulton High School.

4. Johnny Isakson

U.S. Republican Sen. Isakson has been in office since 2005. He also served in the U.S. House from 1999 until 2005. He is a Dykes High School graduate.

5. Gladys Knight

The singer for the R&B group Gladys Knight and the Pips and an actress, Knight graduated from Archer High School.

6. Jasmine Guy

An actress known for her work in movies and TV, Guy made a name for herself playing the snobby Whitley Gilbert on the popular sitcom “A Different World,” which ran from 1987 to 1993. She is a graduate of Northside High School, now North Atlanta High School.

7. Shanti Das 

The music industry executive, marketing consultant and author was an executive vice president of urban marketing and artist development at Universal Motown Records. She managed campaigns for artists, including Ashanti, Akon and Erykah Badu. She is a graduate of Benjamin E. Mays High School.

8. Cynthia McKinney

A six-term U.S. congresswoman and former state senator, McKinney graduated from Frederick Douglass High School. She was the first African-American woman from Georgia elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

9. David Rocker

Pro football player and Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle from 1991 to 1994, Rocker is a Fulton High School (now South Atlanta High School) graduate.

10. Dean Rusk

Former U.S. secretary of state from 1961 to 1969 under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, Rusk is a graduate of Boys High School.

11. Bitsy Grant

Bryan Morel “Bitsy” Grant Jr., nicknamed “Itsy Bitsy the Giant Killer,” was a professional tennis champion during the 1930s. At just 5 feet, 4 inches, he was the shortest American man to win a tennis championship on the international tennis circuit. He is a graduate of D.T. Howard High School.

12. Ceasar Mitchell 

Current president of the Atlanta City Council, Mitchell is a Benjamin Mays High School graduate.

13. Antonio McKay

An All-American track and field athlete and Olympian at the 1984 Games, McKay graduated from Roosevelt High School.

14. Barbara Cook

Cook is an opera singer who performed at President Harry Truman’s inauguration and for other U.S. presidents, as well, and the Queen of England in 1998. She is a graduate of Girls High School.

15. S. Truett Cathy 

The founder and owner of the Atlanta-based fast food giant Chick-fil-A, Cathy is a graduate of Commercial and Tech High School.

16. Charlayne Hunter-Gault

Journalist, author and anchor of the “MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour,” she’s a graduate of  Turner High School and is credited as the first black female to integrate the University of Georgia.

17. Maynard Holbrook Jackson

Jackson graduated from DT Howard High School and went on to become the first African-American mayor of Atlanta.

18. Margaret Mitchell

Mitchell was an author who penned the iconic novel about the South, “Gone With the Wind,” and graduated from the Tenth Street Elementary School.

19. Michael Hollis 

A Booker T. Washington graduate, he’s the first and only African-American owner of an airline, Air Atlanta.

20. Dr. Louis A. Sullivan

Sullivan graduated from Booker T. Washington High School and went on to become the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services under the George W. Bush administration and the president of Morehouse School of Medicine.

21. Elmore Spencer III

Spencer played NBA basketball from 1992 to 2001 for teams like the Denver Nuggets and the Los Angeles Clippers. He was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated and is a graduate of Booker T. Washington High School.

22. Gwen Torrence

A retired U.S. sprinter and Olympic gold medal winner, Torrence is a graduate of Booker T. Washington High School.

23. Herman Russell

A Howard High School graduate, Russell became a millionaire construction magnate and was a member of 100 Black Men.

24. Julian “Nipsey” Russell 

A popular comedian, singer and dancer, Russell is a graduate of Booker T. Washington High School.