Emory University Professor Emeritus James Flannery, already highly decorated for his work in Atlanta and beyond promoting Irish poetry, theater and music, is set to receive a new honor next month bestowed by the country’s president.
Dr. Flannery was one of just three members of the Irish diaspora in the U.S. and only 14 selected out of 58 nominees worldwide for the 2020 Presidential Distinguish Service Award announced by the Department of Foreign Affairs Nov. 6.
“The contribution of the Irish Abroad has been immense, and the diversity of their achievements in their many walks of life, can be seen in this year’s 14 awardees. Each of these individuals have made a remarkable contribution to Ireland and to our international reputation. I am deeply grateful for their service and commitment to this country,” Foreign and Defense Minister Simon Coveney said in a statement.
The award was established after the 2011 Global Irish Economic Forum, which Mr. Flannery attended along with other Atlantans from the Irish diaspora, and distributed for the first time in 2012. See the full list of 2020 awardees here
While this elite group would normally join President Michael Higgins at his official residence in Dublin to receive the honors in fields as diverse as arts, charity, sport and peace-building, the coronavirus pandemic means that the ceremony is to be held virtually in December.
Dr. Flannery’s cultural contributions in Atlanta are well documented. An acclaimed singer, critic, stage director and more, he established the W.B. Yeats Foundation at Emory University in 1989 to foster a greater understanding of the famed poet’s work as a dramatist and cultural activist. Dr. Flannery revived 14 productions during the Yeats Festival at the Abbey Theatre (the National Theater of Ireland) between 1989-93. In 2010, he returned as an international associate artist.
His international work has been complemented by local artistic activism. He produced the Atlanta Celtic Christmas concert, which ran from 1993-2010.
And his presidential honor was announced by the Irish Chamber of Atlanta, where he serves as an executive committee member and founded the St. Patrick’s Day Essay Contest for Georgia students in 2010.
He has also been honored with a Governor’s Award in the Humanities by the Georgia Humanities Council for his work promoting Irish culture and its connections with the culture of the American South, according to the chamber. That repertoire includes the foundation’s Emmy Award-winning Southern Celtic Christmas Concert, which aired on Georgia Public Broadcasting for many years.
In 2012 Flannery was named the “Irishman of the Year” by the Hibernian Benevolent Society of Atlanta.
That same year, Mr. Flannery and Irish community leader Ed Moran were honored with certificates of Irish heritage by visiting leaders of the government ministry of the arts and heritage.
Mr. Moran, an executive director of the Atlanta St. Patrick’s Day parade for many years and a past president of the Hibernian Benevolent Society of Atlanta, died near the end of October 2020.
Mr. Moran was buried in the Hibernian section of Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery, according to an announcement Monday by the Irish Chamber of Atlanta.
Read more about Mr. Flannery’s achievements here.