A Man in Full: Is Wes Jordan Inspired by an Actual Atlanta Mayor?

In Netflix’s drama series ‘A Man in Full,’ Wes Jordan seeks the assistance of the protagonist, Charlie Croker, to win the mayoral election once again. Wes contests against Norman Bagovitch, who is severely concerned about the discriminations White men face in contemporary times. Jordan, to keep Atlanta safe from Bagovitch’s regressive notions, decides to play the “game” dirty by trying to expose him as a rapist. The charming and lively mayoral candidate is a character created by Tom Wolfe for ‘A Man in Full,’ the novel the show is based on. Even though the novel and the character are fictional, they have unignorable and controversial roots in real life!

The Inspiration Behind Wes Jordan

Tom Wolfe had never admitted that Wes Jordan is based on a real politician. However, the author’s meticulous research for his novels often led literary enthusiasts to real-life figures who lived around him who resembled his characters. That was the case when ‘A Man in Full’ was published in 1998. The novel’s portrayal of Jordan resembles Bill Campbell, who was Atlanta’s mayor from 1994 to 2002. Like Jordan, Campbell also ran for office for a second term in 1997 and won the election. However, the most striking similarity between the two Black politicians is their light complexion, a major topic of discussion in both novel and reality.

In Wolfe’s book, Jordan’s light complexion gets targeted by his rival contestant, who refers to him and his companion as “beige half-brothers.” When the complexion becomes a significant part of the election campaign, Jordan even lies on a tanning bed to ensure his victory against the other contestant, who is dark-skinned. In reality, Campbell’s second mayoral election became controversial due to his lighter complexion compared to his rival Marvin Arrington Sr., who was darker than the former. On one occasion, Marvin was accused of indicating Campbell’s light-skinned mentor, Maynard H. Jackson, had been “passing” as a White man.

Through Jordan’s election, Wolfe might have wanted to address this “complexion battle” that actually happened. Irrespective of his intention, Campbell responded to Wolfe. “Given our achievements and history of racial harmony, there is no reason to overreact to a novel that explores several important issues, but like all literature, from the vantage point of the author,” the then-mayor shared in a statement. Campbell also addressed the controversy regarding the light and dark complexions by stating, “As a reality, it’s not an issue at all. Like the ebola plague, it’s very deadly when it does rear its head, but it’s very rare,” as per The New York Times.

When creator and writer David E. Kelley adapted Wolfe’s novel to the drama series, he completely eliminated the matter of skin complexion. The dark-skinned rival candidate became a conservative White man who believes that Blacks and other minorities are enjoying privileges in a society in which people like him are getting discriminated against and ignored. The change Kelley brought isn’t surprising considering the current political climate in the country.

Read More: Is A Man in Full a True Story? Is Charlie Croker Inspired by a Real Businessman?