“She never expected any acclaim,” said the Rev. Edwin King, another founder of the Freedom Party, who was the chaplain of Tougaloo College in Jackson in the 1960s. “But she would inspire people. Not like Fannie Lou Hamer, with magnificent speeches on the stump, but in the day-to-day managing of the party without ever pronouncing that ‘this is the way we have to do it.’”
Emma Ruby Lee Dunbar was born on Sept. 24, 1928, in Claiborne County, on the Mississippi River, near Vicksburg. She was the daughter of Abram Dunbar, a vocational agriculture teacher and high school principal, and Sarah Brown Miller.
She graduated from Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Alcorn State University) in Lorman, Miss., the nation’s first Black land grant college, and studied toward a master’s degree in business at Indiana University in Bloomington.
She taught in Jefferson County, Miss., and in Jackson, and later served as the executive director of Hinds County community action programs. While working as an assistant to Representative Wayne Dowdy, a Mississippi Democrat, she played a role in the naming of the first federal building in the nation for a Black person, the Dr. A.H. McCoy Federal Building in Jackson, which honored a local dentist, insurance executive and civic leader.
She married William Sanders, and, living in Jackson, they ran a restaurant as well as a business school together. In addition to their son Everett, she is survived by their sons William, Antonio and Johnathan; a daughter, Sarita Sanders Donaldson; her brother, Abram Dunbar; her sister, Carrie Parrot; 13 grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren.