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Andrew Young becomes officer in France’s Legion of Honor

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ATLANTA (AP) — France wants the world to know it has not forgotten about Andrew Young.

The former mayor of Atlanta, ambassador to the United Nations under President Jimmy Carter and onetime confidant of Martin Luther King Jr. was further honored by France on Thursday, with Young being promoted to the rank of officer in the country’s Legion of Honor.

Ambassador Andrew Young gives remarks after receiving the French Legion of Honor medal in Atlanta on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023. (Ben Gray/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Laurent Bili, the French ambassador to the United States, on Thursday bestowed the 91-year-old Young with the new rank, crediting his work to end racial segregation “and paving the way for a fairer America.” Bili also noted Young’s advocacy for human rights and efforts to settle a war in what is now Zimbabwe, ending white minority rule there.

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President Emmanuel Macron promoted Young in recognition of his outstanding contributions to human rights and equality.

“Ambassador Young, you are a living legend,” Bili said Thursday. “Your name is forever inscribed into the history of the American Civil Rights Movement. For decades now, you have worked to foster peace and justice throughout the world.”

France describes the Legion of Honor, founded by Napoleon Bonaparte, as its highest honor, bestowed upon citizens of France and other countries who have served France or upheld its ideals.

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Thursday’s award came nearly 40 years after French President Francois Mitterrand initially inducted Young into the order during a visit to Atlanta in 1984, when Mitterrand also placed a wreath at the tomb of Martin Luther King Jr. Young was mayor at the time, promoting an economic development policy based in part on international ties.

“There’s been this partnership in democracies that’s helped to change the world and make it a global economy that we have today,” Young said Thursday after he was honored. “That’s what made Atlanta work.”

Young regaled Bili before the ceremony with how he first met Mitterrand in the late 1950s when Young traveled to France as an employee of the National Council of Churches.

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