District 6 Fulton County Commissioner Emma Darnell, who served her south Fulton constituents since 1992, the longest of any sitting commissioner, died peacefully at her home May 5.
Darnell’s funeral will be May 13 at 11 a.m. at Jackson Memorial Baptist Church, 534 Fairburn Road in Atlanta. Arrangements are being handled by Willie Watkins Funeral Home, 1003 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd. SW, Atlanta.
Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez, a Fulton spokeswoman, said the 84-year-old commissioner, who had not attended a board of commissioners meeting since Jan. 23, said her death was due to an undisclosed illness.
Darnell was a staunch advocate for the constituents in her district, which included Fairburn, Palmetto, Chattahoochee Hills and Union City. According to District 4 Commissioner Natalie Hall, Darnell was an advocate for seniors and the poor.
“Commissioner Darnell always spoke against social injustice, inequality and discrimination,” she said. “She was a true servant leader.”
District 2 Commissioner Bob Ellis said Darnell was a vocal and long-term advocate on many issues, particularly those related to seniors.
“I appreciated her passion for the issues she cared about and will miss the witty nature and banter that she brought in our debates on issues,” Ellis said. “She had a long tenure of service and impact and will be missed by many.”
Prior to her election to the board, Darnell served as an official with the city of Atlanta in the 1970s and, in that position, crafted the city’s first minority business plan. She also worked as a college professor.
Many local officials found her to be a fierce advocate, “and her passion and concern for our communities will be greatly missed,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said in a news release posted on the city’s website.
“She cultivated her leadership during a time when both her race and gender could have been a hindrance,” Bottoms said. “But Commissioner Darnell challenged the status quo with a fierce determination to achieve equality for the people of Atlanta and Fulton County.”
In a message posted to his office’s Facebook page, Fulton District Attorney Paul Howard described Darnell as “a warrior.”
“She supported the right decision, even when it was not the most popular decision,” he said. “She supported those who were ignored by our system and her most famous quote when announcing her vote on an unpopular issue was, ‘It is not the size of our budget that makes Fulton County great, neither is it the vastness of our financial resources or our tall, shiny new buildings, our greatness lies in the decisions we make that support what is right.’”
A special election will be held to fill her seat, but a date has not been set yet.
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to the Friends of Darnell Inc., 677 Fairburn Road NW, Atlanta, GA 30331.