Friends and colleagues of former Cumming City Administrator Gerald Blackburn said he will be remembered for his work in the community as much as his work for the city.
Blackburn, who worked with the city of Cumming from 1972 until his retirement in 2017, died “peacefully at his home … surrounded by family” on Sunday, Jan. 30, according to his obituary.
Those who worked with him remember Blackburn as a fun-loving, hard-working and caring employee for the city on and off the clock.
“What a pleasure it was to work with Gerald Blackburn for 28 years,” said City Administrator Phil Higgins, who took over for Blackburn after his retirement at the end of 2017.
“To me, he was a leader and mentor. But more importantly, he was a friend. Many of my colleagues would share my relationship with him,” Higgins said. “He was a prankster and loved to have a good time. We often joked with each other that one day we would write a book about our time with the city, but we were afraid that some of our tales were so crazy that nobody would believe them.”
According to his obituary, Blackburn was born in Gainesville to Franklin and Artie Blackburn and was a 1958 graduate of the then Forsyth County High School, where he met his wife of 63 years, Sue.
He is survived by his wife Sue Blackburn, daughter and son in law Robin and Mike Sweat, son and daughter in law Shane and Kristi Blackburn, son and daughter in law Kiwp and Chrissy Blackburn. Grandchildren Chase (Carey) Sweat, Lucas Sweat (fiancé Katharine), Emma (John Tyler Cobb), Anna Blackburn, Cash Blackburn (fiancé Bethany), Carlie Blackburn, Casen Blackburn, & Lydia Blackburn and great-grandchildren Thea and Palmer Sweat and John Payne Cobb. Sister Patsy Benson also survives, along with many nieces, nephews, and other relatives.
“Gerald meant so much to so many,” Higgins said. “The two most important things in Gerald’s life was his faith and family. He loved his family dearly and was so proud of their accomplishments. After God and family, he loved the City of Cumming. That included its employees and citizens. It was always apparent to me that Gerald woke up each day with the goal of helping someone on his mind. He was the definition of having a ‘servant’s heart.’
“Gerald will be missed but his legacy with the city of Cumming will never be forgotten,” Higgins said.
Former Cumming Mayor Ford Gravitt, who served as mayor from 1971 until 2018, said he first met Blackburn as a teenager and brought him on as the first director of the city’s recreation and parks department in 1972, before being promoted to city administrator in 1986.
Gravitt said Blackburn was “like a brother” and “a great friend to me personally and also to the citizens of Cumming and Forsyth County.”
“He was a scholar of a gentleman,” Gravitt said. “He’s a gem the angels came and got, and I know he’s rejoicing with his parents and family and friends in Heaven.”
Along with his roles in the city, Gravitt said also ran a chicken farm and served as pastor at churches in the area and was a “he was a hard-working, busy man all the time.”
“Gerald was a minister of several local churches,” Gravitt recalled. “He retired from that probably five years ago. He was loved by so many church people and Christian people. He loved so many people, and he’s going to be missed by a lot.”
City officials said he previously served Mayfield, Shady Grove, Crossroads, and Harmony Grove churches.
In 2011, Blackburn was honored with the Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce’s Charles F. Welch Citizenship Award, which is given to those who exemplify citizenship and outstanding service to the community.
“Mr. Blackburn spent four and a half decades working for the city and was loved by many,” Cumming Mayor Troy Brumbalow said. “He had planned his retirement prior to my election in 2017. He was very welcoming to me and helpful in making the transition to new leadership. He will be truly missed, and my thoughts and prayers are with his family."
Funeral services for Blackburn will be held at 2 p.m., on Wednesday, Feb. 2 in the chapel of Ingram Funeral Home, 210 Ingram Avenue, with the Revs. Michael Millwood, Shad Faulkner, and Deacon Sammy Redd officiating.
His family will receive friends at the funeral home on Tuesday, Feb. 1, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and at 3-8 p.m. and on Wednesday from 9 a.m. until the hour of service.
In lieu of flowers, Blackburn’s family is requesting donations be made to: Beaver Ruin Baptist Church, attn: Loyd Shadburn, 2795 Spot Rd., Cumming, GA 30028.