Seated under a canopy of umbrellas to shield the hot sun, Ted Turner receives a commendation from Mayor Kasim Reed (left). At right is his daughter, Laura Turner Seydel, Mayor Kasim Reed unveiled Ted Turner Drive on Tuesday morning. The renamed portion of Spring Street between Whitehall Street and West Peachtree Street is near the area where Turner established some of his most prominent business endeavors, including Turner Broadcasting System (TBS) and the CNN Headquarters. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM
Photo: Bob Andres
Photo: Bob Andres

Ted Turner Drive unveiled in downtown Atlanta

Ted Turner’s famous gap-toothed smile beamed on Tuesday as city leaders renamed a stretch of downtown Atlanta in his honor.

Gathering across the street from his restaurant, Ted’s Montana Grill, and around the corner from the media empire he founded so long ago, city officials declared the date “Ted Turner Day” as they unveiled a portion of Spring Street that will now be known as Ted Turner Drive.

The event comes after the Atlanta City Council — led by Councilman C.T. Martin — voted in May to honor the billionaire philanthropist with a street, an effort launched by Turner’s family and friends that was met with some opposition by residents who believe the renaming is disruptive.

Mayor Kasim Reed, broadcast and civil rights pioneer Xernona Clayton, city council leaders and family members heaped praise on Turner during the ceremony. Others, including former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn, attended the event.

Turner, they said, placed Atlanta on the international stage when he founded Turner Broadcasting System and revolutionized the media landscape with CNN, the 24-hour cable news network.

Many spoke of his humanitarian and environmental efforts that including donating $1 billion to establish the United Nations Foundation; creating the Captain Planet television series and working with Nunn on the eradication of weapons of mass destruction.

“Ted Turner, by every definition, by every example, is a great man,” Reed said.

Martin described Turner as a “visionary” who has “added quite a few dimensions to the world.”

Clayton — a longtime employee of Turner’s — said the famous Atlantan and former owner of the Atlanta Braves is still reeling from the team’s move to Cobb County in 2017, not to mention the uncertain future of the stadium that bears his name. Clayton told the crowd that Turner said if he was still in charge, the baseball club wouldn’t leave city limits. She hopes the street in some way softens the sting.

“He lost the Braves, but we’re giving him a street. We can travel down the street and remember his great works,” Clayton said. “This man will never die in our minds … because he’s done so much for us to remember.”

Turner, an aging but nonetheless formidable presence at 76 years old, sat quietly in the blazing heat. Though known for his controversial and at-times brash remarks, Turner said little on this day.

“I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it, but I really do,” he told the crowd. “Thanks for coming out in the heat and enjoying it with me.”

John Seydel, Turner’s grandson and son of Rutherford and Laura Turner Seydel, spoke eloquently of his grandfather’s many endeavors, summing up Turner’s life mission as “to save everything.”

“He’s indeed a true Captain Planet,” Seydel said.

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