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Cornelius News

Nannie Potts—Cornelius’ first female mayor and only African-American mayor—passes away

Nov. 10. Nannie Potts, the first female mayor of Cornelius—and the only African-American mayor—has passed away. She was a devoted church worker at Torrence Chapel AME Zion, a political figure with whom future mayors sought counsel, she grew up on a farm near Hoke Lumber in Davidson.

She leaves behind husband Mickey Potts, the barber in downtown Cornelius, as well as an extended family.

Visitation will be 6 pm to 8 pm Friday, Nov. 16 at Torrence Chapel AME Zion Church. The funeral will be at 11 am Nov. 17 at the church, 21517 Torrence Chapel Rd.

Nannie was a tot when the black opera singer Marion Anderson performed at the Lincoln Memorial, having been denied permission to sing at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. At the time, politicians suggested it was the end to racism and bigotry in America.

As a student at Barber Scotia College, a historically black school in Concord, she participated in sit-ins at the Belk Department Store and three other lunch counters in Concord. According to the Global Nonviolent Action Base, “students organized pray-ins, where the black students gathered for prayer in public areas and places reserved for whites.” They were heckled by teenagers.

The Concord Police picked up Nannie and drove her all the way home.

After college, Nannie plunged into a life of family, teaching school, volunteerism and politics. She was elected to the Town Board in 1983, giving a voice to the African American community that is centered in Smithville, just west of Highway 21 along Catawba Avenue. As top vote-getter, she was mayor pro tem, and when then-Mayor Wesley Rood suddenly resigned, she became mayor.

She was known for honesty, compassion and intellect. “She’s going to tell it like it is,” Davidson attorney Bob McIntosh said.


Veteran Town Commissioner Thurman Ross said Nannie launched summer programs and after-school reading programs for disadvantaged kids.

“She was  a leader in very many ways. She was a role model, a mom and community matriarch,” Ross said.

Nannie received the Top Women Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015 from Business Today, sister publication of Cornelius Today.

Mayor Woody Washam said Nannie was a caring leader with a big heart as well as a “go-to person” in the community.


“As a town leader, her expectations were high. As a long-time public school teacher, the expectations she had of her students were equally as high,” he said.

“She truly earned the utmost respect from our town and region,” Washam said.