LaGrange Mayor Willie Edmondson has passed away

Published 1:39 pm Friday, February 16, 2024

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LaGrange Mayor Willie Edmondson has passed away, the city of LaGrange has confirmed.

Edmondson was the first Black mayor in the history of the City of LaGrange and took office on March 27, 2023.

Edmondson had just turned 70 but had been sick recently, reportedly being hospitalized for at least the last week with an undisclosed medical condition. A prayer vigil was held for him on Saturday evening at Lafayette Square.

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Edmondson served as a LaGrange city councilman for 24 years before being elected mayor. He was first elected as a city councilman in 1998.

In previous reporting, Edmondson talked about his experience before being elected mayor. Edmondson was a nurse for about 20 years, but it still didn’t pay that well, so he went back to school and became a mortician.

After graduating, Edmondson worked for Lakes-Dunson-Robertson Funeral Home until 2002 when he purchased the mortuary, which he still owns. He’s also served as pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in West Point.

“I am heartbroken at the death of Mayor Edmondson,” said former LaGrange mayor Jim Thornton, who served with Edmondson during his tenure. “He was a great friend and an amazing leader for LaGrange. I learned so much from him during our years of service together. Through his lifetime of service, he demonstrated love for his family, church, and city. I join with the entire city in praying for comfort and peace, especially for his family.”

Several council members voiced sentiments for Edmondson, including Arrington who will continue in his role as mayor pro-tem.

“My heart is broken, and we are all grieving as a community. Willie was my dear friend, and it is truly a sad day for LaGrange. I reached out to his family to offer our condolences and full support from the city. He was a great man, and we will all miss him dearly,” Arrington said.

LaGrange Council Member Mark Mitchell was saddened to hear the news of Edmondson’s passing. He and the late mayor worked together for eight years and two months counting his previous time on the council. While the two didn’t always agree, Mitchell said Edmondson was fair.

“I really enjoyed working with Willie. He was very fair to everybody as the mayor, but he was also fair when he was a councilman, and I really respected that from him. It didn’t matter your color or your social status, Willie was fair,” Michell said. “I gained a lot of respect for him for that. It’s really a sad day for the council and the city to lose Mayor Edmondson.”

Councilman Nathan Gaskin, who served on the council representing District 2 with Edmondson before his election as mayor, echoed that it’s a sad day for LaGrange.

“My heart is heavy. I respected him, loved him and appreciated all the efforts that he’s done for the city,” Gaskin said, noting it’s the passing of another great leader in the Black community.

“Since I got elected, we’ve lost LeGree McCamey, Richard English and now Willie T. Edmondson,” he said.

Edmondson’s passing isn’t just a loss for LaGrange, it’s a sad day for Troup County, West Point Mayor Steve Tramell said.

“He was well connected to West Point. There’s just a lot of people here in this community that know and loved him.” Tramell said, noting Edmondson pastored Bethlehem Baptist in West Point. “He was such a charismatic leader. And just a lot of people here in West Point are really going to miss him.”

Troup County Commission Chairman Patrick Crews said Edmondson will be missed.

“Willie was just an outstanding individual, a strong voice throughout the community whether it be West Point at his church or here in LaGrange serving on the city government. He was just a very strong, calming voice. I think that word — calming — is very important right now,” Crews said.

“Willie was just always a very calm, steady guy. I never saw him get agitated or upset,” Crews said. “He always seemed so jovial when I was around him.”

Edmondson was also a friend to the business community in LaGrange and Troup County.

“It is with profound sadness that the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce mourns the unexpected passing of Dr. Willie T. Edmondson, a distinguished leader, dedicated public servant, reveren and nurse. Mayor Edmondson’s groundbreaking journey culminated as LaGrange’s first Black mayor, but his life was spent in service to his community,” Chamber President Connie Hensler said.

“Throughout his almost three decades of service, Mayor Edmondson championed initiatives that fostered unity, economic growth, and social equity, paving the way for a brighter, more inclusive future for LaGrange,” Hensler said. “Our heartfelt condolences and prayers are extended to his family and all who loved him. Let us come together as a community to celebrate his remarkable life and to carry forward the torch of his extraordinary legacy.”

Congressman Drew Ferguson, who was formerly West Point’s mayor, also offered condolences on Edmondson’s passing.

“I’m heartbroken to hear of the passing of LaGrange Mayor Willie Edmondson. Dr. Edmondson was a dear friend and a true leader in our community,” Ferguson said. “Whether it was his service as pastor to his church congregation or his dedicated public service to the greater community at large, Dr. Edmondson made significant contributions to the well-being of those around him — and truly made the community a better place. I had the privilege of working with Dr. Edmondson and saw first-hand his passion and devotion to help our community. The greater Troup County area will certainly miss his leadership. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

The city will be lowering all flags to half-staff in recognition of the mayor’s passing.