Nov. 7 is now Thomas W. Dortch Jr. Day in Atlanta.

By Allison Joyner

To honor his contributions to the people of Atlanta and the state as a whole, the Atlanta City Council has declared Nov. 7 as Thomas W. Dortch Jr. Day in honor of 100 Black Men of America chairman Tommy Dortch. 

For over 50 years, Dortch’s contributions to the city’s economic, educational and youth initiatives have helped advance equality for African Americans and have made Atlanta the city it is today.

“It was a phenomenal day,” Dortch said. “I was moved to feel the love from so many friends.”

Even as Dortch faces a challenging battle with cancer, he is still focusing on investing his energy in the people of the capital city.

Atlanta City Councilwoman District 11 Marci Overstreet (left), District 10 Councilwoman Andrea Boone (center) and APS Superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring (far right) acknowledge Tommy Dortch with a proclamation marking Thomas W. Drotch Jr. Day. (Photo by Allison Joyner.)

“Atlanta is the soul of America but with all of that, I would take nothing from it,” Dortch said. 

Dortch has worked with several organizations, including the Atlanta Business League and the Georgia Democratic Party and is engaged with education at the K-12 and higher education levels. He has been an advocate for the Atlanta Public School District, ensuring that the students see fellow 100 members volunteering and mentoring with them.     

“This nation would not be where it is today had it not been for the blood, sweat and tears of Black people,” Dortch said. 

At age 72, he has tried hard to leave a lasting legacy on the world and make it a better place for the generations to come.   

A native of Toccoa, Ga., Dortch studied at Ft. Valley State University, where he was the student body president and registered over 96 percent of the campus to vote. After his time at Georgia State for grad school, he extended his stay. 

“I came here to go to graduate school and loved Atlanta so much that I never left,” Dortch said.

After he was named associate director of the Georgia Democratic Party in the mid-1970s, Dortch became the first African American to serve as state director while working with U.S. Senator Sam Nunn. 

In 1986, he joined the 100 Black Men of America while earning his master’s in criminal justice from Atlanta University, now Clark Atlanta University. 

A young Tommy Dortch as a student at Ft. Valley State University. (Image provided by Tommy Dortch.)

With its mission to improve the quality of life within communities in Africa and the U.S., the 100 Black Men of America enhances educational and economic opportunities for people of color. 

During his first administration as chairman, Dortch increased the nonprofit’s annual budget from $1.75 million to $2 million and has raised over $80 million in almost 20 years. Headquartered at the Auburn Avenue office bearing his name, the organization has mentored over 125,000 young people worldwide.

In his third administration, Dortch announced that he would not continue as chairman at the end of his term, but he says the work is far from over.  

 “We have to be focused on where we want to go as a people,” Dortch said.

Last month, Dortch and other members of the 100 celebrated the organization’s 36th anniversary by ringing the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange. Dortch boasted that the Dow Jones closed 748.97 points above the opening bell volume on that same day. 

When Dortch sat down with SaportaReport, he reflected on the state of his hometown and what he hopes to see in the future. 

“I’m concerned about the changing of Atlanta,” Dortch said. “We’ve always been a family-based city where we believe in working together and supporting each other. Understanding the pie is big enough and you can help somebody else get their slice.”

He continues saying that his fears for Atlanta are the aging, like Ambassador Andrew Young, who just turned 90, and the passing of civil rights leaders, including his mentors C.T. Vivian and Maynard Jackson. He believes that they are the glue that keeps our city bonded. 

Carole Dortch (left), Tommy Dortch (center) and New York City Mayor Eric Adams celebrate the 100 Black Men of America ringing the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange last month. (Image provided by 100 Black Men of America.)

“We’re still a tale of two cities. We have one of the largest populations of poverty and one of the most affluent neighboring communities of businesses and entrepreneurs,” Dortch said. “Yet, somehow, we got to bridge that chasm between the haves and have-nots.” 

He also admired the peaceful demonstrations the students in the Atlanta University Center conducted during the protests for justice after the death of George Floyd. 

“Atlanta still holds so much promise for so many people – and I want to do my part and will continue to do my part – until the supreme being says, ‘okay, time to come home,’” Dortch said. 

When asked about what he wants his legacy to be, Dortch said that he wants it to be that he puts his people first, especially the youth of Atlanta.

“I want it to be that I put young people first because I know the elders in the village saw something in me, nurtured me, promoted and supported me and pushed me,” Dortch said. “And I want to do the same,”