Dr. J. Deotha Malone, a lifelong educator and pioneer in Gallatin, Tennessee politics for African-Americans and females, passed away Thursday, January 7, 2016. She was 88.

The Gallatin native made history when she became the first African-American elected to the Gallatin City Council in 1969. Malone was also the city's first female vice mayor, a position she held for 38 of her 40 years in office.

In a time when blacks and whites in Tennessee and Gallatin were very much still segregated, Malone's election to the city council in 1969 made headlines and was earth-shaking news throughout the community, said First Baptist Church historian and local author Velma Howell Brinkley.

“I just remember it was a time of jubilation and great joy,” Brinkley recalled. “I personally saw it as a sense that equality was not an impossible dream. It was still a dream, but I saw a glimpse that it could be an achievable dream when she was elected.”  Sumner County Schools were integrated a year later in 1970.

In addition to her time in public office, Malone also served on numerous boards including those with local banks, service organizations, community action groups and church groups. She was named “Outstanding Legislator of the Year” by the Sumner County Council of Governments in 1999 and received the Tennessee Education Association’s Humanitarian Award in 2004.

“You can’t put in words what an outstanding lady she really was,” Sumner County NAACP President Beverly Staten said of Malone. “She had a love for her community and was a forerunner to open doors and encourage young people to do well.

“If you are capable of learning things that would help others, she would tell you to share it and not be selfish with it. You should try to help others to move forward,” Staten added. In addition to her service as a member of the Gallatin City Council, Malone dedicated more than half a century to educating others. 

The valedictorian of her graduating class at Union High School, Malone went on to receive her bachelor’s degree in English and French and master’s degree in Educational Administration from Fisk University. She later earned a master’s degree from Tennessee State University and received her Ph.D. from the University of Alabama.

From 1949 until 2004, Malone served as an educator and supervisor for the Sumner County Board of Education. During her career, she taught at both Union High School and Union Elementary School in Gallatin.

“Dr. Malone dedicated over half a century to the children of Sumner County," Director of Schools Del Phillips said. "She touched countless lives and made this community a better place through her heart for and dedication to our children.”  But Malone’s teaching extended beyond the academic classroom walls.

While at First Baptist Church, Malone taught Sunday School for the adult male and female class in addition to serving in numerous other capacities throughout the years. She also sang with the senior choir for many years and was “sought out greatly for advice,” said Jackson.

“She was a very beautiful spirit and was in possession of that up until the time of her departure,” Brinkley said. “She was a public servant and it’s a big loss for all of us, for the city of Gallatin.”

Fisk University, in its educational programs and activities involving students and employees, does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, or age. Furthermore, the university does not discriminate against veterans or individuals with disabilities.