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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.


19 Responses to “Nannie Potts—Cornelius’ first female mayor and only African-American mayor—passes away”

  1. She was an amazing woman and teacher.
    RIP Mrs. Potts

    Posted by Todd Crider | November 10, 2018, 11:30 am
  2. To the Potts Family , we my family are sorry for your loss.

    Posted by Tim Wally | November 10, 2018, 1:37 pm
  3. So sad to hear of Nannie Potts passing. I can only think of good and great things to say about Nannie. Thoughts and prayers are with her family.

    Posted by Cathy Baikey | November 10, 2018, 2:01 pm
  4. Ms. Potts was my teacher when I attended South Iredell High School from (74-77).I was blessed to have her as my subject teacher 3 times in 4 years. Each time i grew to respect and admire her more and more. Having her as a teacher was one of the reasons I myself became a teacher. Thank you Nannie Potts for inspiring a generation of students through your wit,
    your high expectations of us and never compromising on holding your students accountable. You were and always will be a wonderful example of an educator and even more so as a person.you will be missed and never forgotten

    Posted by Kevin D. Johnson | November 10, 2018, 2:11 pm
  5. Mrs. Potts was one ofy teachers at South Iredell High School. She was one of the sweetest ladies you would ever want to meet. God Bless Mrs. Potts and all the memories of her. Prayers for Mr. Potts and all of the family. Heaven definitely received a special angel. God Bless you all.

    Posted by Elaine Dean Smith | November 10, 2018, 3:25 pm
  6. Mrs Potts was my Gov Economics teacher South Iredell class of 93.
    She had a unique way of teaching and a heart of pure gold, but DO NOT FALL asleep in her class lol, Those who had her will understand this one…
    It really saddens my heart to hear of her passing ,but she is a hero and a passionate person in life.
    Mrs Potts you are one of many who made me into the person I am today.
    Thank you for believing in me and Us!!!

    Posted by Kent Brewer | November 10, 2018, 4:09 pm
  7. “Mama” Potts,as her students called her, was a wonderful and caring woman and teacher. She expected nothing but our very best efforts. She touched many kids lives in a way that most of today’s educators fail to do. May she rest in peace. ❤❤

    Posted by Jerri Puckett Smith | November 10, 2018, 4:17 pm
  8. Nannie was a wonderful Friend, and will be missed.

    Posted by Roberta Bales | November 10, 2018, 8:36 pm
  9. When Mrs Potts was my teacher in the late ‘70’s, I was
    obliveous to the struggles of African Americans and African American women. I do remember that she was a wonderful teacher who I loved and respected. Rest in Peace Mrs. Potts and thank you for your service to your students and the community.

    Posted by Carol Fishburne Pitts | November 10, 2018, 8:50 pm
  10. Served on the Cornelius town board with Nannie, always willing to listen to all sides of a discussion before making a decision. Nannie was a true leader and was wonderful person to work with. We have lost a great friend of the people . RIP Nannie Potts, a life well lived!!!!!!

    Posted by Bobby Mayhew | November 10, 2018, 9:05 pm
  11. Rest In Peace sweet Ms Potts! You will be greatly missed
    What a wonderfully wise woman! I have been blessed to have known you. Prayers for your family, I know they will miss you greatly. 🙏❤️

    Posted by Cam Snouse | November 10, 2018, 9:57 pm
  12. The Mayor of Troutman, NC is African American. Perhaps you meant to imply female and african american, but grammar implies that she is the only african american mayor.

    Posted by Keri | November 11, 2018, 7:17 am
    • “of Cornelius” should be added. I saw that too and it was a difficult read. Either way she was the first female and only african american mayor of Cornelius. Nannie was a wonderful lady. I am blessed to have known her and Mickey for my whole life.

      Posted by Lee Sossamon | November 12, 2018, 8:39 am
    • The article said she was Cornelius’ first African American mayor. Why the need to question ….. correct grammar made the meaning clear.

      Posted by Dabney Vigor | November 13, 2018, 8:04 am
  13. Mrs Potts was my Favorite High School. Teacher at South Iredell High School. She had integrity and compassion. An amazing teacher and a wonder of a true LADY. She will be missed by the Class of 1979… that is for sure…
    I loved you Miss Nannie…thank you for catering my bridal shower in 1981… my marriage like your’s has lasted the test of time. I know where you are tonight.. in the arms of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ..

    Posted by anita mason | November 11, 2018, 7:09 pm
  14. So sorry to hear Mrs. Pots as we referred to her was ny High school teacher at Unity, a compassionate & eexceptional communicator with her students & stayed on my tale, i regret not keeping up with her as i grew up ,she wad extremely instrumental witn my & other students growth, so sorry to hear,condolences to the family!

    Posted by Melvin Johnson | November 14, 2018, 5:48 am
  15. she will be miss what a great teacher remember her well freshman history in e building 3 classes all together

    Posted by leon hoover | November 14, 2018, 8:43 am
  16. Nannie Potts was the teacher that taught students but also loved them. I have never forgotten her. . Nor will I ever! Loved that Lady!! Never will I forget the time she took to help not only in Civics class but also in life. My years at South Iredell I treasure because of her.
    Until the day comes when I see her again. . We carry on. See ya later, Mrs. Potts!!

    Posted by Debbie Hartness | November 14, 2018, 3:42 pm
  17. Mrs Potts was one of the brightest bulbs in the box.The 12th grade was an extremely difficult time and she took me under her wing and gave me courage. Such a wonderful woman who I know is having the time of her life with Jesus. God bless each and everyone of her family. I know how very blessed I was to have her as a teacher!!!

    Posted by Vanessa Horne | December 3, 2018, 2:38 pm

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