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Neighborhood Leader Passes

By Henry Bryant

Vern McCarty

Vern McCarty, intown Atlanta neighborhood advocate, real estate developer, former Atlanta City Council Member, and longtime Grant Park resident died September 29 after a long illness.

McCarty earned his undergraduate degree from Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee before going on to Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey. He then spent two years in the Philippines training students in urban mission work, essentially community organizing. This was the start of his career in community development. McCarty came to Atlanta in 1972 to work with the Urban Training Organization of Atlanta, a non-profit that focused on revitalizing transitional neighborhoods (specifically Grant Park and Inman Park).

McCarty was instrumental in founding the Association to Revive Grant Park, now known as the Grant Park Neighborhood Association (GPNA), one of the sponsoring organizations of this paper. As a strong advocate for his community, he worked for the restoration of the large city park within the neighborhood, as well as Oakland Cemetery, which predates the neighborhood and is one of the city’s oldest public green spaces.

He proposed that Grant Park get on the National Register of Historic Places and worked to make that happen in addition to spearheading a revival of reinvestment into Atlanta’s red-lined intown neighborhoods. He served as campaign manager for Debby McCarty’s run for political office. Debby, then his wife, served Atlanta Council District 1 from 1978 to 1993. McCarty served in that council seat for the next fifteen years (from 1994 to 2002), concentrating on constituent services. When he left, he encouraged his former assistant, Carla Smith, to run for that office and acted as her campaign manager. They won, and she took up where he left off, serving until 2022.

McCarty’s interest in historic preservation is evident in his career in real estate development. He restored and rehabilitated large properties both in Atlanta and later in Macon. His Atlanta projects included NuGrape Lofts, Crown Candy Lofts and The Massellton Complex.

McCarty is survived by his wife Caroline (Betsy) Lerner, his brother Davis, numerous nephews, and a niece.

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