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Roger Wilkins Dies; Civil Rights Leader was 85

Image: Roger Wilkins Dies; Civil Rights Leader was 85

Roger W. Wilkins, chosen by President Lyndon Johnson to direct the Community Relations Service, is seen Dec. 27, 1965, in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Tasnadi)

By    |   Tuesday, 28 Mar 2017 03:18 PM

Roger Wilkins, a civil rights hero, died Sunday at a care facility in Kensington, Maryland, after suffering from dementia. He was 85.

Wilkins’ daughter, Elizabeth, and his wife, Patricia King, have confirmed his death, according to The New York Times.

Wilkins fought for civil rights for black Americans for over 50 years.

Wilkins worked as an official in the Johnson administration, and he was also a foundation executive, journalist, author, and professor at George Mason University throughout his career.

The legendary historian published an autobiography in 1982 – "A Man’s Life" – where he opened up about being "the lead black in white institutions for 16 years," the Los Angeles Times noted.

Famed author James Baldwin praised the published piece, saying that Wilkins had "written a most beautiful book" and "delivered an impeccable testimony out of that implacable private place where a man either lives or dies."

In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson tapped Wilkins to lead the federal Community Relations Service, saying, at the time, that the position would be "the toughest job ever given any Negro in the Federal Government…You have one mandate – to do what is right," the LA Times noted.

"We have to change the way people live," Wilkins said in 1967, according to the LA Times. "All the rest is Band-Aids and lollipops."

As a journalist, Wilkins wrote editorial pieces for The Washington Post.

Early in the Watergate scandal in 1972, Wilkins wrote on the matter in the Post, which ultimately helped him earn a Pulitzer Prize the following year.

In 2008, Wilkins made a notable comment about a woman and a black man running for the presidency, saying that it "would have been fodder for a fantasy movie" when he graduated from the University of Michigan many years prior, the Star Tribune noted.

"Today, whatever our problems are, we have a vastly different and better country than the one we lived in in 1953," Wilkins said, at the time.

Wilkins was also the nephew of Roy Wilkins, who played a significant role in the civil rights movement for decades and led the NAACP for over 20 years.

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Roger Wilkins, a civil rights hero, died Sunday at a care facility in Kensington, Maryland, after suffering from dementia. He was 85.
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2017-18-28
Tuesday, 28 Mar 2017 03:18 PM
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