Posted Feb. 25, 2008 – The list of aging civil rights giants shrunk a second time in a week. On Friday, Johnnie Carr, the childhood friend of Rosa Parks who took the reins of the Montgomery Improvement Association from the Dr. Martin Luther King, died Friday. She was 97.
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Just one week earlier, the Rev. James Orange, who was a dynamic force in civil rights struggles from Selma , Ala. to South Africa , passed away at age 65 following complications from gall bladder surgery.
Carr remained active in civil rights, running the association that led the Montgomery Bus Boycott from 1967 until her death.
"Johnnie Carr is one of the three major icons of the Civil Rights Movement: Dr. King, Rosa Parks and Johnnie Carr," Morris Dees, co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, told The Associated Press. "I think ultimately, when the final history books are written, she'll be one of the few people remembered for that terrific movement."
During her tenure at the association, she worked tirelessly to improve race relations, helping desegregate Montgomery schools by naming her then-13-year-old son, Arlam, as the plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit.
"She hadn't been sick up until she had the stroke" on Feb. 11, Arlam Carr said Saturday. "It was such a massive stroke that she never was able to recover from it. She was still very active — going around and speaking — but it was just one of those things."
The Rev. Orange was memorialized on Saturday in King International Chapel at Morehouse College . The man who Christine King Farris, the Rev. King's sister, described as "a courageous leader for our struggle for racial justice and equality," joined the Civil Rights Movement in 1957 and eight years later became an Alabama organizer for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
"He was a pillar of the modern-day civil rights movement, this good and decent man, this honorable brother," said U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.). "He was a man of raw courage. James Orange was never missing in action."
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