Residents of Jackson, Mississippi, were shocked on Tuesday night to learn of the sudden death of first-term Mayor Chokwe Lumumba. A prominent local attorney and former human rights activist, Lumumba, who was sworn into office last July after serving one term on the city council, was 66.
The cause of death is not yet known, although Lumumba, a cancer survivor, reportedly was dealing with a cold.
"He kind of joked around about it," city council president Charles Tillman told the Associated Press.
In 2011, Lumumba persuaded then-Gov. Haley Barbour to release sisters Jamie and Gladys Scott, who'd served 16 years for an armed robbery they denied committing, from prison. As a condition of their release, Gladys had to donate a kidney to her sister. He also represented the late rapper Tupac Shakur.
Recently, Lumumba had successfully pushed through a tax increase to fund the repair of the city's crumbling infrastructure.
"His young administration has been a great beacon of hope for so many of us. He was just beginning to make an effective start tackling the long-neglected challenges faced by our Capital City," Rickey Cole, the chairman of the Mississippi Democratic Party, told WAPT News.
Born Edwin Taliaferro, Lumumba, a Detroit native, took his first name from an African tribe that had resisted slavery and his last name from African Independence leader Patrice Lumumba. He is the city's second mayor to die in office. The late Mayor Frank Melton died of cardiac arrest in 2009 at the end of his first term and after the Democratic primary for his second-term bid.
The city council has 10 days to set up a special election to replace Lumumba that must be held within 30 to 45 days.
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(Photo: AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)