Fox Theatre celebrates 40th anniversary of grass-roots victory


For more information about "The Legend Lives On," the anniversary of the rescue of the Fox Theatre, go to

Comedian Jeff Foxworthy remembers the first time he played the Fox Theatre, and the note he received backstage after that show.

“It was the best backstage note I ever received,” Foxworthy told a group gathered Tuesday at the ornately adorned Egyptian Ballroom, one of the Fox’s antechambers reserved for private parties and small gatherings.

The slip of paper bore a message from his Hapeville high school principal, who wrote, “I can’t believe I am shelling out money to listen to the same kind of crap I used to put a stop to.”

That performance didn’t just represent the triumph of a high school wisenheimer. It also signaled the success of a grass-roots campaign that had high school kids — including Foxworthy — putting bumper stickers on their trucks emblazoned “Save the Fox.”

It has been 40 years since progress threatened to turn the Fox Theatre into a parking deck. A dramatic rescue by a coalition of political and citizen activists, including then-Mayor Maynard Jackson, snatched the rococo architectural gem from the wrecking ball, and kick-started the modern preservationist movement in Atlanta.

Foxworthy was at the Fox on Tuesday to help announce a yearlong series of events marking that victory.

The events include:

  • The Fox's Biggest Fan contest: From Sept. 23 until Nov. 1, competitors can reminisce online about their favorite Fox memory, to win a chance at free tickets. Go to the Fox Facebook page to enter.
  • "One More for the Fans! Celebrating the Songs and Music of Lynyrd Skynyrd," on Nov. 12, is an evening of music from the Southern rockers, with guest appearances by Trace Adkins, Alabama, Gregg Allman, Charlie Daniels, Peter Frampton, Warren Haynes, John Hiatt, Jason Isbell, Jamey Johnson, Aaron Lewis, Moe, Govt Mule, Robert Randolph, Blackberry Smoke, Cheap Trick and Donnie Van Zant.

The Skynyrd show will take place 38 years after the release of the double live album “One More From the Road,” which the band recorded at the Fox in July 1976, a year before the tragic airplane accident that took the lives of three members.

  • On March 14, the Fox will host a 40th Anniversary Gala Celebration, offering thanks to the original members of Atlanta Landmarks Inc., the volunteer organization created to save the Fox.
  • For the Fox Theatre Block Party on June 7, the facility will close off part of Peachtree Street and welcome the city to an early summer fling. "It's our way of saying 'Thank you, Atlanta,'" said Allan Vella, president and CEO of Fox Theatre Inc.

Some 25 other events — concerts, Broadway touring shows and dance performances — will take place at the Fox over the next 10 months, including appearances by Jerry Seinfeld, Foxworthy and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. Many will have a 40th anniversary tie-in, such as the throwback pricing on summer movies.

In introducing the yearlong celebration, called “The Legend Lives On,” Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed praised the organizers who kept the Fox alive back in 1974. He pointed out that as a child, Maynard Jackson was required to use a separate entrance at the segregated facility, but didn’t hold that indignity against the theater when it was threatened.

Reed said the campaign to save the Fox reminded him of these words from Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”