Fulton County’s longest serving Commissioner, Emma Darnell, has died


Fulton County’s longest serving county commissioner Emma Darnell died Sunday. She was 84 years old.

Darnell has served on the board since 1992 and represented South Fulton County, including unincorporated parts of south Atlanta and the cities of Chattahoochee Hills, Palmetto, Fairburn and Union City.

Local leaders pay tribute

Local leaders offered their condolences and remembrances after the news broke Sunday. Below are their full remarks:

“Commissioner Emma Darnell was a fierce advocate and her passion and concern for our communities will be greatly missed.  She cultivated her leadership during a time when both her race and gender could have been a hinderance. 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.” -Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms

“Commissioner Darnell has been a true example of a servant leader, whose body of work establishes a legacy to be revered. She spoke truth to power and courageously fought for the least, the lost, and the forgotten without hesitation. Ms. Darnell was a champion for our senior citizens and a protector of the health of all in her fight for environmental justice. She will forever be remembered for her decades of service and leadership to the people she loved in the City of Atlanta, Fulton County, and beyond. For all she has done, our lives are richer having known her.  My prayers are with her family and constituents during this time.”-Atlanta City Council President Felicia A. Moore

“Commissioner Darnell committed much of her life to public service and, in doing so, shaped our city and county for the better. Her impact will be felt for decades to come. She will be missed.”-District 2 Atlanta Council member Amir Farokhi

“My heart goes out to Commissioner Emma Darnell’s family. She was an integral part of the history and success of Fulton County. Her persistent service will be missed but will live on for many years to come.” -District 3 Atlanta Council member Antonio Brown

“Emma Darnell was my teacher and best friend. She was also an outstanding public servant and a true champion for the people of our community. She will be greatly missed, but her voice as a leader will last forever. I will miss her courage and generosity and I’m incredibly grateful to have known her.”-District 10 Atlanta Council member Andrea Boone

“Saying goodbye to the amazing Emma Darnell absolutely strengthens my dedication of service to those that need us the most (our seniors, our underserved, women and minority businesses) because she was a true servant role model for me. I’m thankful for her powerful reach in the community as well as her leadership. Rest well my faithful servant. JOB WELL DONE!” -District 11 Atlanta Council member Marci Collier Overstreet

“I’m so saddened to learn of the passing of Commissioner Emma Darnell. I recall serving on the board of Invest Atlanta with her. She was always committed to equity and community engagement for the disenfranchised. Her voice was strong! She will be missed deeply.” -Post 3 At-Large Council member Andre Dickens

Who was Emma Darnell?

Darnell was Born in Atlanta but spent some of her childhood in Tyler, Texas where she graduated high school.

Prior to being elected to the county commission, Darnell served in the Atlanta Regional Office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Investigations and Conciliations Division. She also served in the the City of Atlanta as Special Assistant to the Mayor for Intergovernmental Affairs and Chair of the Grant Review Board.

As Commissioner of Administrative Services for the City of Atlanta, she was an architect of Atlanta’s “Minority Participation Plan for the Expansion of Hartsfield International Airport,” which was featured in Henry Hampton’s documentary, “Eyes on the Prize.”

Darnell was also a college professor, graduating from Fisk University where she was a member of Alpha Beta Chapter, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. She earned the Master’s degree from Columbia University, Teachers College where she was a member of Pi Lambda Theta Honor Society. She earned the Juris Doctor degree from the Howard University School of Law.

Citing her work in government as a “public moralist”, in June 2000, she was awarded the Doctor of Divinity degree, honoris causa by the Board of Trustees of the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta.

Darnell was a member of the West Mitchell Street Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in Atlanta.

She was the daughter of the late Dr. Milner L. Darnell, President and Dean of Phillips CME School of Theology in Atlanta and the late Harriett G. Darnell, who served as the volunteer director of Ours Senior Center in Atlanta.

Funeral arrangements are still being finalized.

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