Boston civil rights leader dies

June 29, 2008 at 8:41 PM
share with facebook
share with twitter

BOSTON, June 29 (UPI) -- Thomas Atkins, Boston's first black at-large city councilor, who faced off against school busing opponents as an NAACP leader in the 1970s, has died. He was 69.

Atkins, a Harvard Law School graduate, died Friday at a nursing home in Brooklyn, N.Y., after struggling for years with the degenerative muscular disease Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease, The Boston Globe reported Sunday.

"He was clearly the most brilliant and insightful civil rights lawyer, both in and beyond Boston, to take on the challenges of school desegregation," said Ted Landsmark, who worked with Atkins in the late '70s as a lawyer at Atkins' Boston law firm, Atkins and Brown.

Atkins received repeated death threats during his time on the Boston City Council, prompting him to fortify his Roxbury, Mass., home.

He ran chicken wire over windows to block Molotov cocktails and installed spigots throughout the seven- bedroom house to connect hoses for fighting fires, said his son Thomas Jr.

"He was pretty instrumental in what became a pretty tumultuous time in Boston," Thomas Atkins said.

Atkins served as president of Boston's NAACP chapter, was a Boston mayoral candidate and lead lawyer for the NAACP nationwide, the newspaper said.

Related UPI Stories
Trending Stories