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Alabama civil rights icon Bruce Boynton dies at 83

Alabama civil rights icon Bruce Boynton dies at 83
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Alabama civil rights icon Bruce Boynton, whose refusal to leave the white area of a restaurant helped inspire the Freedom Rides of 1961, died earlier this week at age 83.

Boynton, a civil rights attorney and Alabama’s first Black special prosecutor, challenged his trespassing conviction in a case that went to the Supreme Court, which ruled to ban bus station segregation. 

Former Alabama state Sen. Hank Sanders (D) confirmed in a Facebook post that Boynton died of cancer on Monday in Selma

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“Bruce Boynton was a hero because he stood,” Sanders said in his post. “Bruce Boynton was a hero because he served. Bruce Boynton was a hero because he paid a price for the rest of his life. Bruce Boynton was a hero because he helped change this country.”

In 1958, Boynton was a student at Howard University Law School in Washington, D.C., when he was traveling by bus to his home state, Alabama. 

The bus stopped in Richmond, Va., where he said in a 2018 interview with The Associated Press he sat at the “clinically clean” white area of a restaurant instead of the “absolutely filthy Black cafe.”

"She left and came back with the manager. The manager poked his finger in my face and said ... 'move,'" using a racial slur, Boynton said in his AP interview. "And I knew that I would not move, and I refused to, and that was the case."

Boynton was later arrested and the future first Black Supreme Court justice, Thurgood Marshall, argued his case. The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in his favor. His death came less than two weeks before the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision. 

The first Black special prosecutor in Alabama passed the bar exam but was not granted his state license for six years as the state bar investigated his arrest, The Washington Post reported.

His mother Amelia Boynton Robinson also helped organize the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, which led to police beating her unconscious, according to the Post.