Keisha Lance Bottoms is the 60th mayor of Atlanta, Georgia. On July 16, she was sued by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp over the mask requirements she announced on July 8, even though Kemp had encouraged Georgians to wear a mask, CNN reported.
The lawsuit was an escalation of the political feud between Bottoms and Kemp, who had recently been arguing over the issue of mandating masks, according to 11 Alive News. Kemp signed an executive order on July 16, overruling local mask mandates in cities including Atlanta, Athens, and Savannah, NPR reported.
But Bottoms rejected the executive order and said Atlanta’s mask mandates were “enforceable and they stand” in a press conference. She also slammed Kemp for taking sides on the mask issue only after President Trump violated the city’s mask mandates during his visit to Atlanta’s airport.
Kemp quickly responded by filing a lawsuit against Bottoms and said she didn’t have the right to defy a governor’s executive orders, according to NPR. While Kemp said on Twitter that the lawsuit was “on behalf of the Atlanta business owners and their hardworking employees who are struggling to survive during these difficult times,” Bottoms implied that he was wasting taxpayers’ money.
Bottoms also Tweeted that Kemp had asked for an emergency injunction to block her from speaking to the press, which the Atlanta Journal-Constitution said was “extremely rare,” even though Bottoms had “mildly overstated her case” on CBS News’s Face The Nation.
The 50-year-old Bottoms took office in 2018, becoming the second woman and the first Atlant Public Schools’ alumnus to hold the position, according to the Atlanta Voice. She’s also the city’s only mayor to have served in all three branches of the government, her website says.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Bottoms’ Ancestors Were Slaves
In an interview with Vogue, Georgia, Bottoms said that her grandmother’s grandparents were slaves in Crawfordville, Georgia. She had also been told that her great-great-grandfather served in Congress during Reconstruction.
She told Vogue that this family history helped her realize that elections mattered and motivated her to call for people to vote.
I’ve seen the slave registry. One-thousand-five-hundred dollars was his value. I have been thinking of him a lot and, the anger and the pain and humiliation and all the things that must have been a part of being enslaved, and how was he able to put that all aside and move beyond? It had to have been a belief that there was something better for tomorrow and something better for his children’s children. That’s the hope and energy that we’ve got to give back to our communities.
“I stand here this afternoon carrying the hope of the slave,” she said during her inaugural speech in 2018.
2. Bottoms’ Father Was Grammy-Nominated R&B Singer Major Lance
Born in 1939, Bottoms’ father Major Lance was an R&B singer from Chicago, according to the New York Times. He was originally a boxer, but transitioned to be a singer. He started out singing gospel and made his way to rock after his appearance on Jim Lounsbury’s Record Hop, a Chicago TV show, according to the Seattle Times.
He had a number of hits in the 1960s, including “The Monkey Time“ in 1963, and “Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um” in 1964, the Seattle Times reported. “The Monkey Time” was described by the Chicago Sun-Times as the signal of “the birth of the Chicago Sound,” and was praised as his finest collection, according to the New York Times.
Lance opened for the Beatles on their first U.S. tour in 1964, and Paul McCartney was once seen carrying a Lance album. He was also supported by a band that included Elton John, Oprah Magazine reported. He had also been nominated for the Grammy Awards, according to Bottoms.
Bottoms, along with her two siblings and her mother, once lived in England with Lance. She once said during an interview that she didn’t believe her dad was famous:
My dad used to always tell me he opened for the Beatles when they came to the US, but I didn’t believe him. I thought he was exaggerating.
I’d say ‘Daddy, so and so said that they knew you’ and he was like, ‘Yeah, I know you don’t believe me, but I was a very popular man.
“For many, he is still revered as a musical icon. But for me, he was simply my daddy,” she wrote in an op-ed for CNN.
Lance died in September 1994 at the age of 55. A group of “eccentric-looking white men” attended his memorial service, and Bottoms didn’t realize that one of them was Elton John until he left.
His agent Linda Speer told the New York Times that Lance kept performing until he died of heart disease. Three months before his death, he still sang at the 11th annual Chicago Blues Festival.
3. Bottom’s Father Was Put in Prison When She Was 8 Years Old
While Lance achieved success in the 1960s, his career took a downturn. The family lost their house in Collier Heights, and Lance started dealing drugs to make ends meet, which eventually led to his arrest in 1978, Bottoms said in a campaign video.
When she was eight years old, she came home from school one day only to find police officers all over her house. She saw her dad being led away in handcuffs, according to the video.
“I spent every weekend visiting my dad in prisons across the state, and I never wanted to find myself in a situation like that,” she said.
Bottoms said her parents divorced after her dad went to jail. Her mom Sylvia Robinson went from being a stay-home parent to having to work two jobs and going to cosmetology school at night to support the family, according to Oprah Magazine.
“He was a big deal, and my life as a child revolved around him being a big deal,” Bottoms told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Lance was given a 10-year sentence for possessing and selling cocaine, according to Bottoms.
She described what it was like to lose her father in an op-ed about criminal justice reform:
At the time, I was not able to fully articulate the pain I felt nor understand the gravity of the situation. But the trauma of that day forever altered the trajectory of my family.
“He served three years in prison, and it was the death of our family,” she wrote.
4. The Bottomses Have Been Married for Almost 26 Years
During her first year at Georgia State University College of Law, Keisha Lance Bottoms met fellow law student Derek W. Bottoms, who is six years her senior, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The day after Derek turned 28 in 1991, they went on a date. The couple remained together throughout their time at law school, and Derek proposed to Keisha after she returned from a two-week program at Cambridge University. The couple tied the knot in 1994 at Atlanta’s Ben Hill United Methodist Church, the same year the couple graduated from law school, Atlanta Magazine reported.
Keisha told the Atlanta Magazine that she “did the people’s work” while Derek, who worked as an attorney, “kept the lights on.”
Derek attended the University of Georgia and received his bachelor’s degree in finance there. He later went on to study at Georgia State University College of Law and worked as an associate at Powell Goldstein after graduation in 1994. He joined the Home Depot in 2000, and is now the Vice President of Employment Practices & Associate Relations.
5. The Bottoms Couple Has 4 Children & All of Them Were Adopted
Bottoms has four children, all of whom were adopted. After unsuccessful attempts to conceive, she and her husband chose to adopt children: Lance, Langston, and twins Lincoln and Lennox. The oldest kid Lance just graduated from high school this May.
The family has a close relationship with Bottoms’ mom, who comes to her house at 6:30 a.m. every day to make breakfast for her grandchildren and see them off to school, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Before the adoption, Bottoms went through some “unreasonableness,” she told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
When you’re a woman of faith, (I worried) does this mean I’m giving up because I’m looking at adoption? Even though adoption was something I always wanted to do, I thought it would be in addition to biological children. Once I worked through the unreasonableness of that thought process, it really worked out.
During the same interview, she said that she and her husband turned down a number of babies because “it just didn’t feel right.” “But with each of my children, I knew in my heart that they were the ones to say yes to,” she said.
READ MORE: Learn More About Keisha Lance Bottoms