Fox News has reported that Dorothy Cotton, a woman who worked very closely with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., has died. She taught nonviolence to demonstrators before marches, and would often calm tensions at marches by singing church hymns.
She was 88 years old upon passing away on Sunday afternoon at the Kendal at Ithaca retirement community in New York. She died surrounded by family and friends, who remained close to her bedside.
Harrison had battled illnesses recently, although it is unclear at this time the cause of death.
According to Fox News, Cotton was among a small number of women in leadership positions at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference during the Civil Rights era. During her career, she led the Atlanta-based civil rights group's Citizenship Education Program.
Her friends and family remember her as a woman with a beautiful voice who, when things got stressful, would often start up a song to relieve the tensions.
"She had such a calming influence in her personality," said Xernona Clayton, who was King's office manager in Atlanta. "She had a personality that would lend itself to people listening to her."
Cotton became one of Martin Luther King's closest colleagues and worked at the SCLC for more than a decade. She was also respected by the vast majority of her male counterparts, who recognized her as an important civil rights leader. Her colleagues remembered her as a woman who was fearless, who never was afraid even when traveling through areas of the south where violence against blacks was common.
"She was courageous," remarked one old friend. "She never hesitated."
Cotton, while remembering the death of Martin Luther King, once remarked that it is the responsibility of people today to carry on the mission of racial equality.
"Rosa Parks didn't wait to see what everybody else was doing. She just did it," Cotton said, according to Fox News. "We should ask ourselves what we're doing. It starts with ourselves, our families and our churches."
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