Longtime Mecklenburg County commissioner Ella Scarborough dies at 75

Scarborough made history in 1987 when she became the first African American woman elected to Charlotte City Council.
A woman referred to as a hero and trailblazer-- Mecklenburg County commissioner Ella Scarborough-- has died at the age of 75.
Published: May. 24, 2022 at 9:22 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Mecklenburg County commissioner Ella Scarborough has died at the age of 75, her family announced on Tuesday.

A pioneer in North Carolina politics, Scarborough hadn’t attended a commissioner’s meeting since October 2021 and was granted a medical leave of absence in March when she was placed in hospice care.

Scarborough made history in 1987 when she became the first African American woman elected to Charlotte City Council, representing District 3 before being elected at-large in 1993.

A native of Sumter, S.C., Scarborough was also the first Black woman to run for mayor of Charlotte and United States Senate in N.C.

In 2014, Scarborough was elected to serve on the Mecklenburg County Commission. In 2016, she was elected chair of the board, again making history as the first Black woman to serve in this position.

She graduated from South Carolina State University and moved to Charlotte in 1971.

“Ella did many, many things to help pave the way for many of us on this board,” Mayor Vi Lyles said during a budget meeting Wednesday afternoon.

Commissioner Mark Jerell said he will never forget the honor of sitting next to her.

“She taught me really how to focus in on local politics and why my lense should be turned to local politics as opposed to national politics,” Jerell told WBTV.

Beyond politics, Commissioner Elaine Powell says she made people feel good.

“When she hugged you it was so real, like you mattered,” Powell said.

Looking to the future, Stephanie Sneed, the Chairperson of the Black Political Caucus says Scarborough remains her inspiration.

“We have to remember her and the works that she accomplished and we have to be steadfast in continuing that work,” Sneed said.

Her death does raise the question of a permanent replacement for her seat.

During her medical leave, commissioners appointed Dr. Wilhelmenia Rembert as temporary commissioner at-large. At that time, Commissioner George Dunlap said if she were to pass away, it would become up to the Mecklenburg County Democratic Party to determine a permanent selection.

In a statement, Jane Whitley who chairs the Mecklenburg County Democratic Party, told WBTV:

“Commissioner Scarborough’s passing was announced last night and we are mourning the loss of this wonderful servant-leader. The Democratic Party will take whatever action is needed to do what is best for our community in this situation. At this point we are still reviewing what actions, if any, will be needed.”

Beyond her duties as an elected official, Commissioner Scarborough is a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., where she served as president of Tau Theta Zeta Chapter (2007-2010); former national board chair of the Election Committee; president of the North Carolina League of Municipalities; national chair of the Public Utilities Librarians; president of the Metrolina Librarians’ Association; president of the Black Women’s Caucus of Charlotte Mecklenburg legendary “Blackberry Bunch” to fund community programs and many more civil organizations.

Scarborough is listed in Who’s Who in the World of Women 1980, Who’s Who in Special Libraries & Information Sciences 1982 for excellence in her capacity to research, assemble and archive significant data and information.

She is survived by her two children, Troy and Tori, her siblings, Floydetta and Norman, and her many nieces and nephews.

Funeral services will be handled by Chris King Memorial Chapel, located at 121 Mobley Street, Chester, SC 29706.

Related: Mecklenburg County Commissioners announce recommendation for temporary at-large seat

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