Remembering The Honorable Pearl C. Quarles – Community Leader & A Woman of Many Firsts


The Honorable Pearl C. Quarles was a person of many “firsts.” Quarles was the first African-American woman to serve as a Westchester County Legislator, the first African-American woman to serve as Vice Chair of the Board of Legislators, and the first African-American to serve as president of the New Rochelle Board of Education. Queen Mother Pearl was an exceptional woman and a trailblazer—the first African American Westchester County Legislator, the first African American President of the New Rochelle Board of Education, and the first African American to be hired in a ‘white collar’ position in Westchester County’s banking industry. She was also the first female chair of the Shiloh Baptist Church board of trustees in New Rochelle. Through her service as a legislator, a business professional, a religious leader, President of the Westchester Black Women’s Political Caucus, a leader in the New Rochelle NAACP, and myriad other roles, The Honorable Pearl Quarles personified public service. She left an indelible mark on our community and on all who knew her, and she will be greatly missed. and the first African-American to be hired in a “white collar” position in Westchester’s banking industry.

In addition, Mrs. Quarles, who was a proud Republican, served as the first female chair of the board of trustees of Shiloh Baptist Church in New Rochelle and was currently is a member of the executive committee of the New Rochelle chapter of the NAACP. In addition, she has been active in many local organizations, including The New Rochelle League of Women Voters, Sister to Sister International, and the Westchester Black Women’s Political Caucus, and was a member of the New Rochelle school board from 1971 through 1980.

Most of Quarles’ business experience has been in the field of accounting, and she was the comptroller and office manager of a major private company for 19 years. In addition to serving as a legislator, she worked for Westchester County as a specialist in job development and employee training. Quarles has always been a volunteer at numerous community organizations and currently serves on the board of directors at United Hebrew, a health care and rehabilitation facility in New Rochelle.

In 2015, Ms. Quarles was inducted into the Westchester County Hall Of Fame at the age of 86. On Wednesday, September 6th at the age of 92, she transitioned in the morning at New Rochelle Hospital.
Black Westchester celebrates the life and legacy of the Honorable Pearl C. Quarles

I’m happy I was able to offer her flowers while she was still living, and the above is an excerpt from my latest book, Black Westchester Celebrates Black Women of Westchester. She read what I wrote about her in the book, appreciated it, and thanked me for including her. On Saturday, March 4, 2023, during a book signing hosted by the White Plains/Greenburgh NAACP and the Westchester AKAs at the Greenburgh Public Library, WBWPC President Subomi Macauley presented Mother Quarles with a copy of the book and snapped the picture below.

In celebration of her Life and Legacy, we comprised a collection of comments, quotes, and memories from those who knew her best and whose lives she touched.

On behalf of the entire membership of the Westchester Black Women’s Political Caucus, Inc., particularly the New Rochelle Chapter, we extend our sincere sympathies on the passing of our first countywide treasurer, Hon. Pearl Christian Quarles. – Subomi Macauley, WBWPC President

I have fond memories of Pearl. She was a fierce warrior and a woman who was willing to stand alone on her convictions. I often went to Pearl for wise counsel. Not only is this a deep loss for the Caucus, but the Black community and Westchester County as a whole. May her indelible legacy live on. Madame Legislator, we salute you. – Nicole Benjamin, WBWPC Countywide First Vice President

The Yonkers Chapter would like to send our deepest condolences to the family of Pearl C. Quarles, whom we referred to as “Queen Mother Pearl,” a remarkable, kind, elegant, and beautiful woman with whom we relied as a voice of importance. We pray to the Lord for the peace of Pearl’s family, friends, and Caucus Chapter Sisters. – The Yonkers Chapter of Westchester Black Women’s Political Caucus

Mother Pearl was a trailblazer & a leader for the Black community for decades. She was so full of love for everyone and exemplified competence, excellence, and grace. She loved being a member of the NAACP and we loved her so much. She will be greatly missed. – Elder Mark McLean, President of New Rochelle NAACP

One of the classiest Women I know loved her Rest In Paradise Mrs Quarles – Cookie Alexander-Campbell

Rest In Heavenly Peace My Forever Friend. I’ve known you since I was five years old. You were Mom’s lifelong friend. The memories and countless conversations that we had will forever be dear to my heart. I will always be your little Rosa. – Rosa Metz

It is with great sadness that I share with my reunion family the passing of Mrs. Pearl Quarles, the beautiful mother of Ernst “Ernie” Quarles, a fellow classmate, and his sister Donna Quarles. Mrs. Quarles was a pillar of our community and the FIRST African-American woman to serve as a Westchester County Legislator. Overall, she was just a wonderful individual, a trailblazer. There wasn’t a time when you’d run into her that she wasn’t advocating for someone or something, but before the conversation ended, she would have that big, beautiful smile on her face and begin encouraging you too. That was a huge part of her life to support and uplift others, and I thank God to have met her because she was a person determined to make a difference in those whose paths she crossed. Mrs. Pearl Quarles was such a joy to talk to and a true queen of New Rochelle who will be missed by many. May she rest in eternal peace. – Cindy Bailey Hubbard, 1973 New Rochelle High Class Reunion

The City of New Rochelle, the Queen City of the Sound, has lost its Queen. Mrs. Quarles poured into everyone she met. Her CV is full of accomplishments, and her life was full of acts of caring and kindness. In addition to her husband, she joins a host of New Rochelle movers and shakers in Glory! – Nancy Hite-Norde

Pearl C. Quarles was #HerStoric the first African American to serve on the New Rochelle School Board and the first to serve as its President. She also was the first African-American woman to serve on the County Board of Legislators. Where it had only been Ernie Davis and Herman Keith she joined them in 1993 fighting for underserved communities. She was that voice. While we didn’t always agree, we held mutual respect. May she Rest in Peace and Power!! – Mount Vernon Councilwoman Lisa A. Copeland

A woman of unmatched style, grace, desire, and passion to make a difference in our communities. She is the epitome of a Black Queen as she was a pioneer in breaking glass ceilings for Black Women in Westchester County by being the First Black Elected County Legislator. Her resilience, determination, and ability to be the change you want to see will always live on in those she touches. What I will most remember about her is her smile, her warm but yet firm spirit, and how she made space to impart her knowledge in those coming up behind her. A life well lived, Queen Pearl; may you rest forever in Heavenly peace. – Joanne Dunn, Executive Director of The Youth Shelter Program of Westchester

What a Magnificent Women! Pearl Quarles babysit me as a toddler, then she was my mentor as a young parent. She will always be in my heart!! Rest In Heavenly Peace!!! – Phyllis Cole-Hollis

In memory of the Honorable Pearl C. Quarles, she will forever be legendary in Westchester County. She was the first African-American woman to serve on the Westchester County Board of Legislators, and she was so much more! She was a humanitarian; her community contributions, innumerable accomplishments, wit, mentorship, dedication & love of advocacy leave a void in our communities. She was also a wonderful seamstress & sewed many of her own stylish outfits. I have the fondest memories of traveling to Albany with her many times, sharing stories & just soaking up her wisdom. As the second woman to represent my Legislative District 8, she holds an honored space on my office wall in tribute to all the women who have represented the District. I am so very glad she was one of the first to see my office with her picture on the wall when I first started serving on the Board. She’s always been a treasure to me & she will be more than missed! – County Legislator Jewel Williams Johnson

My deepest condolences to her family. Such a great role model. Thank you for paving the way – Former Mt. Vernon Comptroller Maureen Walker

My husband Damon (Hon. Damon Maher, County Legislator) and I share our most heartfelt condolences on Mother Pearl’s passing. She was a very special person to both of us. I also pass along condolences from the Executive Committee and the Board of the Inter-Religious Coalition of New Rochelle.

I am writing to share some activities and honors related to the Inter-Religious Coalition of New Rochelle (formed by a merger of the Interreligious Council of New Rochelle and the Coalition for Mutual Respect).
Along with her many community leadership positions and activities, Mother Pearl was honored by the Coalition for Mutual Respect in 2009, when she was given the Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin Peacemaker Award to honor her community work. She was an active and valued member of the Coalition for Mutual Respect’s Steering Committee for many years and was a big supporter of all of the Inter-Religious Coalition of New Rochelle’s events and activities. – Deborah Maher, Vice President of The Inter-Religious Coalition of New Rochelle

Queen Mother Pearl Quarles legacy will live on for the ages. She lived life to the fullest, becoming the first African American County Legislator to serve in Westchester County. She loved her community and she especially love giving and investing in the next generations of African Americans women. I didn’t know her for a long length of time, but that never mattered to her…she didn’t hesitate to share her wisdom and knowledge with me. It was priceless. Rest well good and faithful servant. You will be missed. – MaryAnn Carr – WBWPC Greater Bedford Chapter

Pearl Quarles was such a special person to me and my family. She was always there to lend a helping hand, offer needed advice or just check in to send her love. I know she’s in a better place but I’m still going to miss her greatly. Rest in peace, Pearl. – Former CE Rob Astorino

It is with great sadness that we have learned of the passing of one of our longtime committee members & friend, Pearl Quarles. She was the first black woman appointed to the County Board of Legislators, & a proud Republican. A strong supporter of former County Executive Rob Astorino, she will always be remembered with fondness, great respect & love. May she rest in peace.- The New Rochelle GOP

I had the privilege of getting to know Pearl Quarles during my time with former Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino. Through her service as a legislator, a business professional, a religious leader, President of the Westchester Black Women’s Political Caucus, a leader in the New Rochelle NAACP, and myriad other roles, Pearl Quarles personified public service. She left an indelible mark on our community, on all who knew her, and she will be greatly missed. – GOP U.S. Congressman Mike Lawler (CD17)

It is with great sadness I announce the passing of a Westchester and New Rochelle legend and a beloved member of our Westchester GOP family, Hon. Pearl Quarles. Please join me in extending your prayers for Pearl and her family during this difficult time. Pearl was a true trailblazer, having been the first African-American woman elected to the Westchester County Board of Legislators and the first African-American President of the New Rochelle Board of Education. Her public service also included the President of the Westchester County Black Political Caucus and the Commissioner of the New Rochelle Youth Bureau, among so much more. A proud Republican, Pearl was a great friend and staunch supporter of former County Executive Rob Astorino, and her fame was renewed and her legend grew in 2013 when she starred in an iconic television commercial leading up to Rob’s landslide re-election. I first became acquainted with her during my time first as a member of the New Rochelle Republican Committee and later on as New Rochelle Chairman. In the almost 30 years I knew Pearl, I could always count on her wise counsel and I remain grateful for her years of friendship. May God Bless Pearl and may she rest in peace. – Doug Colety, Chairman Westchester GOP

Remembering Mrs. Pearl C. Quarles. Warmly known as “Mother Pearl” Our hearts are broken! An Angel has received her wings and went to be with the ancestors. First Westchester County Legislator, First African American President of New Rochelle Board of Education, First to be hired in a “white collar” position in Westchester County banking industry, these are just a few of her many accomplishments. Professional, Leader, Mentor, Mother, and most important of all a “Friend”. We Love you and you will be greatly Missed, we know that Heaven is rejoicing at your arrival. – Phyllis M. Shelton

I’m sorry to hear about the passing of Pearl Quarles, a true trailblazer and a beloved member of our committee. It’s truly heartbreaking to lose someone who has contributed so much to our community. As the first black woman appointed to the County Board of Legislators, Pearl’s legacy will forever inspire and empower future generations. Pearl’s dedication to her work and proud affiliation with the Republican Party made her a strong supporter of former County Executive Rob Astorino. Her contributions and unwavering support have left an indelible mark on our community. In this time of sorrow, let us remember Pearl with fondness, great respect, and love. Her achievements and the impact she made will be forever cherished. May she rest in peace, and may her spirit continue to inspire us as we strive for progress and equality. – Former Majority Leader of the Yonkers City Council Patricia Diana McDow

The Hon. Pearl C. Quarles has been like a mother to me, always standing by my side and championing causes that improve the lives of Black women, girls, and families in Westchester County and beyond. She was an inaugural Sister to Sister International board member and most recently served as a parliamentarian. Queen Mother Pearl was a trailblazer in Westchester County and beyond and will be sorely missed. May she rest in Peace and Power. – Cheryl Brannan – founder and CEO of Sister to Sister International, Inc. (STSI).

STSI saluted Pearl C. Quarles during their Pre-Mothers Day Jazz Brunch and Hat Parade to benefit their Reach for the Stars scholarship fundraiser at Julianos in New Rochelle on Sunday, May 7, 2023.

I will always remember this Queen Mother who always showed so much beautiful love and care. I love that she was unapologetically Black and did what she wanted to do and said what she wanted to say! – MV City Court Judge Nichelle Johnson

Our longtime friend and board member, the Hon. Pearl C. Quarles was a fierce advocate for humanitarian causes and was always a cherished supporter of United Hebrew. How lucky we were to know her and have her as part of our community! A woman of many “first.” Her legacy extends beyond her groundbreaking achievements. A remarkable woman with a voice of importance, Pearl was a Westchester County pioneer and a community treasure. While we mourn her loss deeply, we will forever remember Pearl as a trailblazer whose pioneering spirit continues to light the way for future generations. – United Hebrew of New Rochelle statement

Miss Pearl always supported me in my endeavors in the Town of Greenburgh. She always told me to advocate for the people in Greenburgh who do not have a voice. And continue to be an activist and hold the town officials accountable. Ms. Pearl will definitely be missed, but never forgotten. Community Advocate Clifton Abrams

We celebrate the life of our dear friend. Pearl not only loved history, she MADE history! We will forever miss her infectious smile, her wisdom, that endless energy, and her friendship. Our deepest condolences to her family. Her last lecture at the Thomas Paine Cottage says it all: “A Life Well Lived”, a talk by Hon. Pearl Quarles” – The Huguenot & New Rochelle Historical Association

The Honorable Pearl Quarles was an exceptional woman who defied societal expectations. She demonstrated her excellence in the world of politics by effectively representing the interests of Black people, regardless of their political affiliations. It was truly an honor to have had the opportunity to know her. – BW Publisher Damon K. Jones

We celebrate the Life & Legacy of the Honorable Pearl C. Quarles, a true Black Westchester Legend!

AJ Woodson
AJ Woodson
AJ Woodson is the Editor-In-Chief and co-owner of Black Westchester, Host & Producer of the People Before Politics Radio Show, An Author, Journalism Fellow (Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism), Rap Artist - one third of the legendary underground rap group JVC FORCE known for the single Strong Island, Radio Personality, Hip-Hop Historian, Documentarian, Activist, Criminal Justice Advocate and Freelance Journalist whose byline has appeared in several print publications and online sites including The Source, Vibe, the Village Voice, Upscale,,, Rolling Out Newspaper, Daily Challenge Newspaper, Spiritual Minded Magazine, Word Up! Magazine, On The Go Magazine and several others.


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