Civil rights campaigner will be sorely missed

The Reverend Abraham L Woods Jnr, a civil rights campaigner who in the days of crowd-throttling, fire-hosings and snarling police dogs led the first lunch-counter sit-ins in Birmingham, Alabama, died last Friday in Birmingham, his home town.

The Reverend Abraham L Woods Jnr, a civil rights campaigner who in the days of crowd-throttling, fire-hosings and snarling police dogs led the first lunch-counter sit-ins in Birmingham, Alabama, died last Friday in Birmingham, his home town.

Three decades later he played a pivotal role confronting racial discrimination by country clubs.

He was 80.

The cause was cancer, his son Abraham Woods III said.

Woods, a Baptist minister who had been friends with the Reverend Martin Luther King Jnr since their days together at Morehouse College in Atlanta, was one of the civil rights leaders standing behind him when King gave his "I have a dream" speech on August 28 1963 from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Less than a month later, on September 15, Woods raced from his church in Birmingham, St Joseph Baptist, to the 16th Street Baptist Church minutes after a dynamite explosion there had killed four young black girls.

Woods was interviewed 34 years after the church bombing, a seminal civil rights event, because he had played a leading role in spurring the federal government on to reinvestigate it.

Only one man, Robert E Chambliss, a member of the Ku Klux Klan, had been convicted in 1977. The new investigation led to the conviction of two other Klansmen, Thomas Blanton and Bobby Frank Cherry.

Abraham Lincoln Woods Jnr was born in Birmingham on October 7 1928, one of 11 children of the Reverend Abraham Woods Snr and the former Maggie Wallace.

Woods attended Morehouse with King in the late 1940s. He later received a Bachelor's Degree in Theology from Birmingham Baptist College; a Bachelors degree in Sociology from Miles College in Birmingham; and a Master's in American History from the University of Alabama.

Besides his son Abraham he is survived by his wife of 60 years, the former Marian Dowdell-Levette; four brothers; four sisters; another son; five daughters, 18 grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.

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