Shannon Terrell Gordon, Dick Anderson et al

From left, gathering at the June 2018 ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Behavioral Health Center at the South Fulton Service Center, are River Edge Behavioral Health CEO Shannon Terrell Gordon, Fulton County Manager Dick Anderson, county Commissioner Emma Darnell, county Chairman Robb Pitts, county Behavioral Health Director and Developmental Disabilities Director LaTrina Foster, department Program Manager Charles Releford and county Real Estate and Asset Management Director Ellis Kirby.

The Fulton County Board of Commissioners is mourning the loss of one of its own.

District 6 Commissioner Emma Darnell, 84, who had served on the board since a 1992 special election, died peacefully at her Atlanta home May 5, according to a news release. She was the board’s longest serving commissioner.

Darnell’s district includes most of south Fulton including Chattahoochee Hills, Fairburn, Palmetto and Union City. She previously served as an official with the city of Atlanta in the 1970s, when she crafted the city’s first minority business plan, according to a news release.

Local officials sounded off on what Darnell meant to them.

“Commissioner Emma Darnell was a fierce advocate and her passion and concern for our communities will be greatly missed,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottom wrote in a statement posted to the city’s website. “She cultivated her leadership during a time when both her race and gender could have been a hindrance. But Commissioner Darnell challenged the status quo with a fierce determination to achieve equality for the people of Atlanta and Fulton County. Derek and I are thankful for the personal encouragement she has given us for many years and on behalf of the people of Atlanta, we are forever grateful for her courageous leadership.”

In a message posted to his office’s Facebook page, Fulton District Attorney Paul Howard Jr. said, “Commissioner Darnell was a warrior. She supported the right decision even when it was not the most popular decision. She supported those who were ignored by our system. 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 reserves or our tall shining new buildings, rather our greatness lies in the decisions we make to support what is right.’”

Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez, a county spokeswoman, said she did not have information on Darnell’s recent health or cause of death. But it’s likely Darnell had been ill for an extended period of time since she had not attended a board meeting since its Jan. 23 monthly recess meeting.

Funeral arrangements will be announced when finalized, the news release stated. A special election will be held to fill her seat, but a date has not been set yet. Check back with the Neighbor for updates.

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