2018-03-07 / Front Page

Former Keysville mayor Emma Gresham dies at 92

DIANA ROYAL

She held many titles throughout her lifetime – daughter, sister, mother, mentor, political trailblazer – but Emma Gresham was perhaps most commonly recognized amongst her peers and beloved community as the ever faithful “Queen of Keysville.”

On Friday night, the longtime mayor of Keysville passed away at the age of 92.

Though born in Reidsville, Gresham made her home in Keysville, graduating from Boggs Academy at the age of 15. She went on to study at Paine College, where she was an honor graduate. She also studied at Atlanta University, Augusta State College and the University of Georgia and retired from the Richmond County School System after she taught for a combined 32 years in Richmond, Burke, McDuffie and Talladega (Ala.) counties.

She spearheaded the fight to reinstate Keysville’s charter after discovering it had become inactive when the town’s city council disbanded in 1933. She’d barely been elected mayor in 1985 before an Augusta Superior Court judge revoked the charter in support of a group of white residents who’d questioned Keysville’s boundary lines. The entire nation watched as Gresham and those who’d been elected as her city council continued the struggle to get their city back. She officially became mayor in 1990, after the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s ruling to uphold the previous election.

Under her tenure, the small town developed a long hoped for water and sewer service and, along with streetlights, structures popped up all over the city including a post office, fire department, library and a $2 million municipal building.

She retired as mayor in 2005 but remained active in her hometown, promoting arts and education while staying involved in her church.

Over the years she gained much recognition within Burke County and abroad, most recently attending the unveiling of the Emma Gresham African American Research Library at Boggs Rural Life Center in January.

Mayor Gresham coined the motto, “Keysville is a town where everybody is somebody.”

Tentative arrangements include a celebration of life at Bethel AME Church in Augusta on Friday, March 9, from 6-8 p.m. and funeral services 11 a.m. Saturday, March 10, at the Gilbert Lambuth Chapel of Paine College, with burial following at Mt. Tabor Cemetery in Keysville. Repast will then be at the Charles Walker Human Resources Building.

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