Commissioner Emma Ione Darnell died peacefully at her home in Atlanta on Sunday, May 5, 2019, after representing District 6 which includes the unincorporated part of Fulton County (Fulton Industrial Boulevard area) and portions of the cities of Atlanta, Chattahoochee Hills, College Park, East Point, Fairburn, Hapeville, Palmetto, South Fulton and Union City.
Commissioner Darnell believed “government is about people” and “if you fashion it with the people”, the programs will take care of themselves. Her focus areas included Human Services and Human Health and the Environment.
A professional in the field of Public Administration, Commissioner Darnell served as the first female to head a department in the government of the City of Atlanta. In her capacity as Commissioner of Administrative Services, she was responsible for the Personnel, Purchasing, General Services, Labor Relations, Contract Compliance and Equal Employment Opportunity Departments. Reporting directly to the Chief Administrative Officer (the late Dan Sweat), Commissioner Darnell was an architect of Atlanta’s “Minority Participation Plan” for the expansion of “Hartsfield International Airport” featured in Henry Hampton’s prize-winning documentary, “Eyes on the Prize.” She also served as Atlanta’s Director of Intergovernmental Affairs and Chair of the Grant Review Board. In this capacity, she participated in the planning, design and construction of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Social Change—The King Center.
Commissioner Darnell earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee where she was initiated a member of Alpha Beta Chapter, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She earned a Master of Arts degree at Teachers College, Columbia University in New York, at which she was selected a member of the Pi Lambda Theta Honor Society. Later, she was awarded 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 (ITC) at the Atlanta University Center.
Commissioner Darnell was a longtime member of the West Mitchell Street Christian Methodist Episcopal Church and a product of the CME Church parsonage. She was the daughter of (the late) Dr. Milner L. Darnell, president, Phillips School of Theology, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church and (the late) Mrs. Harriett G. Darnell, Founder and (Volunteer) Director, Ours Senior Center, 23 Georgia Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia.
On Jan. 1, 2017, Commissioner Darnell began serving her eighth term on the Board of Commissioners. In 2015, she became the "dean" of the Commission, having at the time serving as the longest actively-serving commissioner.