Born in Salisbury, MD, Elsie Mae Burris was the only child of Virginia Burris and Albert Russell. Affectionately known to her family as ‘Mom Mom’, Elsie passed peacefully with her youngest son by her side on 13th of May, 2023 in Atlanta GA after battling the effects of a stroke that occurred in July of 2017.
Elsie attended Salisbury High School where she played varsity basketball before going on to receive her Bachelor's degree from University of Maryland Eastern Shore. She received her Masters Degree from Antioch College where she also earned credits toward her doctorate.
From her first marriage to Elwood Conway, she bore her children Sandra, Stephanie, April, Kim, and Craig. And from her second marriage to Ophie A. Franklin, came her two youngest Stacey and Kalonji.
For Mom Mom, it was God first, then Family, followed by sports and education. She was a spiritual woman who cherished her relationship with God, always reading and sharing her Daily Word at the start of the day, and will be remembered by her close friends, family, and former students as a fierce advocate for education, health and wellness.
Elsie started her career in the Philadelphia School System before moving to Boston where she and her late husband founded TCED, an independent experimental school. She then held numerous teaching and leadership positions within Boston Public Schools. Over the course of her career, she taught Physical Education, Health, and English while coaching track & field, volleyball, basketball, golf, tennis, and badminton. In 1990, she moved to Atlanta where she taught in the Dekalb Public School System until she retired. To this day, you can run into students across the country who ask about Mrs. Franklin and remember the tough but caring impact she had on their lives.
From her home at 18 Melville Ave, she raised her seven children and cared for several more. From the neighborhood kids, to professional athletes, to famous musicians and civil rights activists. Mom Mom’s home was a space to congregate for all.
Elsie was heavily involved in her community–a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority, she held volunteer positions in the Black Caucus, the Black Teachers Association, the Dekalb County Juvenile Court and City Council, and worked closely with Mel King during the fight for civil rights in Boston. Later in life, she could often be found at the Lou Walker Senior Center on Panola Road staying up-to-date with the latest technology by taking classes on computers, texting, and code. If you’re lucky enough to have received one of her handmade cards, you know how seriously she took her courses and crafts. Mom Mom was an athlete to her core. When she wasn’t winning gold in the Senior Olympics, she was watching and discussing sports with her family. On any given Sunday, she could be found at the Dekalb Farmers market searching for flax seeds, cayenne pepper, and other natural remedies.
Elsie is survived by her children: Sandra Conway, Stephanie Watkins, April Conway, Kim Tillman, Craig Conway, Stacey Franklin, Kalonji Franklin; grandchildren, Natalie Henry, Sigmund Watkins, Ryan Conway, Michelle Jeffrey Johnson, Mekel Summers, Mia Cambridge, Lil Craig Conway, Chanel Conway, Bree Jones, Karli Jones, and Katani Ostine-Franklin. And countless great grands.
She had special relationships with each of us, her late grandmother Estella (Gonga) Pitts, as well as with her close friends and colleagues including but not limited to Ms. June Elam, Jeanette Haslem, Jean McGuire, Judge Harry Elam, John O’Brian.