No sooner had Jimmy Carter announced his vice-presidential choice than he and Fritz Mondale met with 90 black clergymen in New York. Georgia Congressman Andrew Young, 44, an ordained Congregationalist minister, told the group that it was no accident that Carter is in tune with blacks. Announced Young: "By the grace of God, Jimmy's next-door neighbor was a black bishop." Responded the ministers: "Amen!" Continued Young: "From the early days of his life, he had to watch that bishop drive his long black Packard by his house." "Amen." "His father and the bishop used to have prayer meetings together." "Amen." "In a mysterious way, the Lord gets his things together." "Amen."
And Andy Young does a pretty good job of getting things together for Jimmy Carter. Asked recently to whom he owes anything politically, Carter replied with a list of one: Young. The Congressman serves as Carter's liaison with black leadersboth politicians and ministers. He also regularly reassures white liberals who are skeptical about Jimmy. Beyond that, Carter consults Young on many key decisions. Now Young will help in a nationwide drive to register more blacks as voters, with the aim of turning them out massively for Carter on Election Day.
Young claims that he and Carter seek the same goal of a rejuvenated South restored to its proper importance in national politics. But he did not always hold so lofty a view of Jimmy. As a veteran of the civil rights movement, he had thought that "nothing good could come out of southwest Georgia," and felt that Carter came from the "meanest cracker country there is." But Carter's mother Lillian, whom Young met in 1970, smoothed the way to a meeting of minds. Young was impressed by the fact that she joined the Peace Corps at the age of 68. Later, he ran into Carter in a black restaurant, when Carter was campaigning for Governor. Young noted that the candidate not only shook hands with the prominent diners but also went into the kitchen to press the flesh with the cooks and dishwashers.
When Carter was elected Governor, he started phoning Young for advice. Because he had been associated closely with Martin Luther King Jr., Young considered himself a political liability.
Still, he says today, "Jimmy openly almost flaunted his association with us." Young was impressed by the way Carter added blacks to the state board of regents, the real estate commission, the pardons and paroles board. When Carter decided to run for President, Young made a limited commitment. He favored Humphrey, but he was willing to sign on through the Florida primary in hopes of stopping George Wallace there.