Homer Danley made Douglasville history in 1978. That was the year he became the city’s first black-elected member of the city council. He served on the council for seven years from 1978-1985.
“I was proud to be elected,” Danley said. “But I felt an awesome responsibility because I realized that what I did as a member of the city council was going to either enhance or take away the possibility of someone doing something in the future.”
Danley was elected during a period where voters selected from “at-large” ballots and not from the specific ward they live in. The “someones" he referred to was anyone who looked like him.
“A lot of people believe, probably more so then than now, just being African-American automatically disqualified you to walk on the city council and do a good job,” Danley said.
Joe Henry Dones was one of the first black citizens who wanted to run for city council, but wasn’t elected in the early stages, Danley said. One councilman told Danley that as much as he liked Alton Caldwell, a black man running for city council, he couldn’t vote for him.
“He told one of the other white councilmen, ‘You know, I really like that Caldwell,’” Danley said. “‘I never voted for a black before and I think my daddy would just turn over in his grave if I voted for him.’”
Caldwell eventually became one of the first black members of the Douglasville City Council soon after. He was the husband of current Douglas County Magistrate Judge Barbara Caldwell. The unnamed white councilman who said he couldn’t vote for Caldwell became very close with Danley during and after their time serving together on the city council over the years.
While on the council, housing and utilities were two of the top issues in the city at the time that Danley and the council faced. He recalls a young Herb Emory sitting in on those council meetings to hold the elected officials accountable.
“I remember a lot of people didn’t have sewage and they had septic tanks,” Danley said. “There were people with dilapidated houses who could not afford to get them fixed up.”
Danley still lives in the county off of Highway 78 in Winston. Today, he admires the city council from afar. He gave his praise, particularly to Councilwoman LaShun Burr Danley, who married into the Danley family, Mayor Rochelle Robinson, City Manager Marcia Hampton, and Downtown Services Manager Patrice Williams. Although all of the women Danley mentioned are black, he said he acknowledged them, along with the rest of the council who appointed those individuals, simply because they were the most qualified candidates for their positions.
“What I don’t want to see is anybody in any of those positions who shouldn’t be there,” Danley said. “There are some, maybe a few throughout the county, where it’s questionable whether the candidate won because of qualifications or because of race. We cannot go down that road because it’s a destructive path. But the ones that I’ve seen at the city, it seems like they know what they’re doing and that’s important.”
Being elected as the first black Douglasville councilman wasn’t the first time Danley made history. As a senior at Fort Valley State University, he became the first black full-time deputy at the Peach County Sheriff’s Office. Then, he joined the Georgia National Guard as one of the few black soldiers in the state. His brother Leonard Danley was the first black Magistrate Judge in Douglasville. His sister Dorothy Sparks was one of the first black educators to teach at Douglas County High School. The philosophy Danley used for breaking barriers is a principle that comes from the Bible.
“We have not because we ask not,” Danley said.
Danley was an educator at Douglas County High School for 30 years, retiring in 2002. He taught economics, sociology and even worked as a counselor at the school. Working in education taught him much about people in general, Danley said, from all walks of life.
“Race is nothing but a culture,” Danley said. “Race is nothing that you can say, ‘Hey. That race …They’re all different. We’re all 99.9 percent alike and we’re different as day-and-night, but there aren’t differences based on race and when we get beyond that, I think our society can move forward.”
Danley graduated from R.L. Cousins High School in 1966, the same school that his wife Florence Danley went to before schools were integrated in the county. Danley and his wife now own two businesses, Danley Brothers Four, LLC. and Danley Four Developments, LLC. The couple has two daughters, Fhonda and Fhara. Both work in education in the county as well, which amuses Danley. Fhonda is the principal at Fairplay Middle School and Fhara is a counselor for schools in the Douglas County School System.