Atlanta street fight: Who was Donald Lee Hollowell?

From Bankhead Highway to Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway to Shawty Lo Boulevard?

Shawty Lo, whose real name was Carlos Walker, and who shot to fame with his 2007 rap hit "Dey Know," was killed on Sept. 21 in a fiery crash on the I-285 southbound ramp to Cascade Road.

Now his fans, nearly 4,000 of them by Tuesday afternoon, have signed an online petition to have the former Bankhead Highway and current Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway renamed in his honor. Organizers of the effort said once they hit 5,000 signatures, they will deliver the petition to Mayor Kasim Reed and other city of Atlanta officials. There is no governmental plan at present to rename the parkway.

The street is a stretch of U.S. 78 that winds through the impoverished Atlanta community of Bankhead, where Shawty Lo was beloved as the “King of Bankhead” or “K.O.B.” for his charitable deeds.

But the roadway already bears the name of a pretty famous Atlantan.

Nearly 20 years ago, state and local officials christened the thoroughfare “Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway” in tribute to the noted civil rights attorney.

While Shawty Lo was saluted in death by Beyoncé, Hollowell was saluted in life as a big deal in the realms of law and civil rights.

Here are five things to know about Donald Lee Hollowell, who died in 2004 at age 87 of heart failure:

» Hollowell the Buffalo Soldier: Born in Wichita, Kan., on Dec. 19, 1917, Hollowell was told by his janitor father at age 18 that he had to quit school to help make ends meet. He went straight to Fort Leavenworth and enlisted in the Army's all-black 10th Cavalry, the regiment known as the Buffalo Soldiers in the Old West. During his six years in the Army, he earned his high school diploma and, in 1941, enrolled in all-black Lane College in Jackson, Tenn., where he became the starting quarterback on the football team. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Hollowell re-enlisted and rose to the rank of captain while serving in Europe. He returned to Lane after the war and earned an undergraduate degree. In 1951 he received his law degree from Loyola University in Chicago.

» Hollowell the civil rights attorney: In the 1950s and '60s, Hollowell served as one of the lead lawyers in the desegregation of Atlanta schools. He represented Martin Luther King Jr. in 1960 after the civil rights leader was sent to Reidsville Prison on a DeKalb County traffic charge. A year later, he was the attorney for Charlayne Hunter (later Hunter-Gault) and Hamilton Holmes Jr. as they integrated the University of Georgia. Hollowell's firm worked to desegregate Augusta's buses and Macon's schools and won a landmark case requiring Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital to admit black doctors and dentists to its staff. In a 2004 interview, former Fulton County Superior Court Judge Marvin Arrington said: "During the movement, in and around 1960 and 1961, when it was hot and heavy, he fought for civil rights, and he did it with a degree of professionalism. He was intelligent and a great advocate."

» Hollowell the mentor: As a prominent black attorney in Atlanta, Hollowell was a beacon and mentor to a host of young black attorneys, including Arrington, Vernon Jordan and former federal Judge Horace Ward. Jordan, who went on to become an adviser to Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton and to lead the National Urban League, started working for Hollowell the weekend after he graduated from law school. "I finished law school the first Friday in June 1960. The Monday morning after I graduated, I went to work for Donald Hollowell for $35 a week," Jordan said. "I was his law clerk and researcher, and I carried his briefcase and I was his right-hand man. He taught me how to be a lawyer, a leader, how to fight injustice. Whatever I have become in the years, I owe it to him in large measure."

» Hollowell the federal man: In 1966, Hollowell accepted an appointment from President Lyndon Johnson as the first regional director of the new Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which monitors workplace discrimination. He remained at the EEOC as regional attorney until 1985 and was later considered a likely candidate for a federal or state judgeship, although no nomination ever came. In 1998 he became a special Fulton County State Court magistrate. "I had a great deal of respect for him, and my only regret is that he was never appointed to the bench," said former Atlanta Mayor Sam Massell. "He commanded respect, and that is what made the difference."

» Hollowell the Parkway: In 1998, to mark his 81st birthday, the Department of Transportation renamed the blighted road originally named for Alabama congressman John Bankhead. The DOT and members of the Bankhead Business Association figured the new name, Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway, was needed to go along with planned upgrades intended to boost the corridor's image, viability and safety. Hollowell, who had lived near the area for more than a half-century, was seen as the perfect choice: "I'm not a young man anymore and don't have the energy I once had when I was very active as a civil rights lawyer," Hollowell said at the time. "But I will try to do all I can and encourage others to help make this a better community."

About the Author

Editors' Picks