By Carla Hendricks
FRANKLIN, TN — This Thanksgiving weekend the Franklin community is mourning the loss of Alderman Pearl Bransford, the sole African American on the city board. She was re-elected for a fourth term in October 2019.
First elected to the city board in 2007, Bransford was a Franklin resident for more than 35 years. She was: a respected and thoughtful member of city government; a private person who took care of this community as she did for patients during her career as a nurse.
“I’m shocked because I had no idea she’d been sick,” Alderman Dana McLendon said. “When the mayor called me this [Saturday] morning, I thought this can’t be good news. I’m really sorry for her friends and family. She will be sorely missed.”
McLendon served alongside Bransford for 13 years. He noted Bransford’s impact on this community saying, “Pearl had a connection to a part of the community that doesn’t get a lot of attention. Pearl had that gift, and you can’t replace that. She knew everyone. I don’t think I ever introduced Pearl to anyone. It was always Pearl introducing me to someone else. She was very gracious and graceful. I was glad to serve with her, and I certainly will miss my friend.”
Raised in Brownsville, a small town in West Tennessee, Bransford spent most of her life in Middle Tennessee, earning degrees from Tennessee State University and Vanderbilt University. In addition to her community activism and public service roles, she enjoyed an 18-year nursing career at Vanderbilt Medical Center. Prior to her position as alderman, Bransford also served on the Board of Directors for the Franklin Special School District.
“The Bell family is mourning her loss,” Allena Bell, Franklin Special School District, FSSD, Board treasurer, said. “She was a great mentor and friend. We would see each other at fundraisers, community events, or at [meetings of the board of Mayor and aldermen] when I was representing the FSSD school board and Franklin Tomorrow. I always received great wisdom and unique perspectives to aid my legacy of service for our Franklin community.”
Pearl actively served Franklin Tomorrow, a community-visioning nonprofit organization. “Pearl was very supportive of Franklin Tomorrow,” Franklin Tomorrow Executive Director Mindy Tate said. “She attended all our events, including Vision City, because she was a forward-thinking individual.”
Alma McLemore, president of the African American Heritage Society of Williamson County, considered Bransford a close friend and colleague. They served on the City Planning Commission and the Franklin Housing Commission together and advocated for the community for many years.
“It is a shock to the entire community,” Alma McLemore told TheTennessee Tribune. “She was a true community advocate. She was willing to listen to her constituents. She was there to give her voice and take action. She was a strong advocate for affordable housing and historic preservation.”
McLemore is grateful for Bransford’s consistent support of the African American Heritage Society. “She was always supportive of our Black Tie event. If I asked her to come speak, she always said yes. She would come greet people at the McLemore House.”
“This is a tremendous loss to our city,” McLemore added. “You can’t replace a person like Pearl. The things she touched and the people she touched will allow her legacy to live on.”
Bransford is survived by her husband, Henry (Hank) Bransford, of 34 years, and her three children.
An update on this story is planned for TnTribune.com. Clint Confehr contributed to this story.