Stella Sanford dies at age 82

5/9/2014, 6:54 p.m.
Stella Sanford's name is etched into the Civil Rights MemorialCenter and Wall of Tolerance in Montgomery, Ala.

Stella Sanford, who was known for her fabulous hats and her community work, has died.

Sanford’s granddaughter, Andrea Brown, said she died May 3. She was 82.

Her parents were the late Harvey C. and Sarah A. Stanford.

Born in Flat Rock in Lithonia on July 2, 1931, Sanford moved to Indianapolis in the ’50s but returned to Georgia in 1961 as a federal statistician and Equal Employment Opportunity investigator in the U.S. Department of Labor and other federal offices. She retired from the CDC and lived in Lithonia until her death.

Her role as a social activist is etched in DeKalb County history. In a 2005 interview, Sanford said she was the first African-American to be offered a position in the DeKalb Schools administration and that she helped to change fair housing laws in Georgia to allow more blacks to able to purchase homes in DeKalb.

In 1997, she founded the community and social organization Communities of America Inc. to eradicate crime and help build neighborhood groups around Atlanta.

In October 2005, her name was etched into the newly created Civil Rights Memorial Center and Wall of Tolerance in Montgomery, Ala., for her part in the struggle that helped bring voting, political, educational and basic human rights to blacks in America.

She was nominated for the honor by the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery.

Family and friends will pay their respects at a wake on May 11 from 6 to 8 p.m. at First Saint Paul AME Church, 2687 Klondike Road in Lithonia. The “Celebration of Life” takes place at 11 a.m. on May 12 at Saint Philip AME Church, 240 Candler Road in Atlanta.

She was preceded in death by brothers O’Neal Stanford, Harvey Stanford and James T. Stanford and sister Mable Grier. Surviving are her daughter, Sarah Brown-Johnson Bey of Hampton; grandchildren Sertonius (Aroonrath) Brown of Dahlgren, Va., and Andrea Brown of Hampton; four great-grandchildren: Rasheed and Mi’chaela Brown of Hampton and Melanie and Sertonius Brown II of Dahlgren; and her sister, Annie C. Lyons of Atlanta.

Condolences may be offered at Tri-Cities Funeral Home, 6861 Main St. in Lithonia.