JOHNNIE CARR, 97
Civil rights activist
Johnnie Carr, who joined childhood friend Rosa Parks in the historic Montgomery bus boycott and became a prominent civil rights activist over the past half-century, died Friday in Montgomery, Ala. She had suffered a stroke Feb. 11, said Baptist Health hospital spokeswoman Melody Ragland.
Ms. Carr succeeded the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as president of the Montgomery Improvement Association in 1967, a post she held at her death. It was the newly formed association that led the boycott of city buses in the Alabama capital in 1955 after Ms. Parks, a black seamstress, was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to whites on a crowded bus.
A year later, the Supreme Court struck down racial segregation on public transportation.
As the association's president, Ms. Carr helped lead several initiatives to improve race relations and conditions for blacks. She was involved in a lawsuit to desegregate Montgomery schools, with her son, Arlam, the named plaintiff.
She played a prominent role in 2005 on the 50th anniversary of Ms. Parks' refusal to give up her bus seat, speaking to thousands of schoolchildren who marched to the Capitol.
"Look back, but march forward," Ms. Carr urged the huge crowd of young people.
Days before her stroke, Ms. Carr participated in King Day ceremonies in Montgomery, speaking after a parade.
"She was always an encourager and not a divider," Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright told the Montgomery Advertiser. "She was just a loving person. She was truly the mother figure that we all so desperately needed in Montgomery during a very trying period of our history."