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Long-time Fulton County Commissioner Emma Darnell dies

The commissioner passed away at her home on Sunday.

ATLANTA — Long-time Fulton County Commissioner Emma Darnell passed away on Sunday at her Atlanta home.

The Atlanta-native spent part of her formative years in Tyler, Texas. Darnell was a graduate of Fisk University, before earning her Master's Degree at Columbia University and her J.D. at Howard University School of Law. 

In 2000, she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Atlanta's Interdenominational Theological Center. Darnell has received a number of other awards, especially highlighting her work with senior citizens over the years.

Darnell has also served in the Atlanta Regional Office of the US Equal Opportunity Commission's Investigations and Conciliations Division.

In addition, she served as a special assistant in the office of the mayor of Atlanta's Special Assistant to the Mayor for the Intergovernmental Affairs and as chair of the Grant Review Board.

Current Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms released a statement early Sunday afternoon on the passing of Darnell: 

“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.” 

Several Atlanta City Council members also shared tributes for Darnell:

"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 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 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 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 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

Darnell was elected to the Board of Commissioners in a special election in May 1992. She was in the middle of her eighth term as county commissioner, which was set to expire at the end of 2020, representing Fulton County's 6th District, which includes much of the city of South Fulton, Chattahoochee Hills, Palmetto, Union City, Fairburn and portions of far southwest Atlanta. 

Funeral arrangements will be announced once they are finalized.