In 1988, the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials needed a president to replace suspended Fulton County Commissioner A. Reginald Eaves. He had been convicted of extortion charges.
The group met at the Sheraton Hotel on West Peachtree Street. There, state Rep. Tyrone Brooks, an Atlanta Democrat, nominated state Rep. Mary Young-Cummings, an Albany Democrat.
Brooks said his suggestion raised eyebrows and maybe even the blood pressure of some members of the male-heavy body.
"There were a whole lot of men who didn't appreciate me nominating a woman," Mr. Brooks said. "They rolled their eyes, but it was time for a woman to be president."
Moreover, Mrs. Young-Cummings was qualified. She'd paid her dues on the civil rights movement in her hometown of Fitzgerald in Ben Hill County. She was arrested for demonstrating at segregated lunch counters, restaurants and movie theaters. In college, she founded a NAACP youth chapter.
As an adult, she'd been an Albany city commissioner and an attorney.
Her activist philosophy, Mr. Brooks said, paralleled the black elected officials association's.
"She was a champion of civil rights, women's rights and for maximizing the voting strength of African-Americans," he said. "She always stood up and pointed out the disparities in sentencing. Those were her main issues, and she was ready for the challenge."
Mary Moss Young-Cummings, 66, of Albany died Saturday from complications of various illnesses at her home. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Albany. A funeral will be held at noon Thursday at Holsey Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in Fitzgerald. Hall's Funeral Home in Fitzgerald is in charge of arrangements.
Mrs. Young-Cummings was born in Fitzgerald, one of 16 children. She was a math major at Savannah State University and in 1967 earned a law degree from Howard University.
After law school, she practiced law briefly for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund in New York City. She eventually moved to Albany and joined the firm of civil rights attorney C.B. King. She married in 1969 and had two children.
In 1975, Mrs. Young-Cummings was the first of two black city commissioners elected to the Albany City Commission, where she served eight years. From 1983 to 1992, she served in the state General Assembly.
In office, Mrs. Young-Cummings often brought her children to political affairs. Demetrius Young of Denver remembers playing with his sister in the state Capitol.
The visits, he said, served a purpose.
"She wanted us to be exposed," he said, "and she exposed me and my sister to so many things. She kept us front and center of everything that she did. We'd be right there, next to the Rev. Jesse Jackson's children and everybody, witnessing the work that she was doing."
In 2005, the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials hosted a salute for Mrs. Young-Cummings at Albany State University. Though her activism had garnered numerous honors and recognitions, she said that the event marked the first time she'd been honored in Albany.
"A tear came to my eye," Mr. Brooks said, "but I told her that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. didn't get many accolades in his home, either."
Additional survivors include a daughter, April Young of Birmingham; four sisters, Annie Wilcox of Atlanta; Pearl Scott and Gladys Smith both of Fitzgerald; and Eunice Briggs of Detroit; four brothers, William Moss of Miami; James Clinton Moss of Ocala, Fla.; Matthew Moss Jr. of Ocilla; Sampson Moss of Detroit; and five grandchildren.
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