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Delta Sigma Theta Soror Elaine O’Neal Elected First Black Female Mayor of Durham, North Carolina


Another first for the sorority sisters of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Elaine O’Neal, a member of the sorority was recently elected the first Black female Mayor of Durham, North Carolina.

O’Neal defeated mayoral candidate Javiera Caballero with 84.69% of the vote after Caballero suspended her campaign following the primary election in October.

Running on a platform focused on neighborhood safety, well-being, housing, transit, youth engagement, education and economic relief/recovery, O’Neal will take over the role of mayor of the city from Steve Schewel who has held the position since 2017. 

O’Neal and her sorority sisters at NCCU

O’Neal is a native of Durham, North Carolina and grew up in the West End Community. She attended Lyon Park, Morehead Elementary, Rogers-Herr Jr. High, and Hillside High School where she graduated in the class of 1980 with honors.

As an undergrad, she attended North Carolina Central University and pledged Delta Sigma Theta, graduating Cum Laude with a BS in Math in 1984. She earned her Juris Doctor from the NCCU Law School.

O’Neal served as a District Court Judge for 17 years and was the first woman in Durham County to be named Chief District Court Judge. “In the 1990s, she was a pioneer and advocate as a judge around same-sex adoption, supporting LGBTQ families in North Carolina,” the bio on her campaign website states. “In 2011, she was elected the first woman Superior Court Judge in Durham County. In 2015 she was appointed as Chair of the Superintendent’s Code of Student Conduct Task Force for Durham Public Schools where she worked to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline. She retired from the bench in 2018 to lead the NCCU School of Law as Interim Dean. In 2018, Mayor Steve Schewel appointed her as Chair of the Racial Equity Task Force for the City of Durham, where she led a diverse cross-section of Durhamites to create policy and budget recommendations on complex issues.”

Along with being a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., O’Neal is a member of the Durham County Bar Association, George White Bar Association, and a Board Member of Made in Durham.

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