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Civil rights activist, 90, who joined MLK's Selma march dies

HISTORY IN ACTION: Selma march

A CIVIL RIGHTS activist who marched in Selma with Martin Luther King Jr has passed away "peacefully" at the age of 90.

Ozell Sutton died on Saturday (Dec 19) at Saint Joseph Hospital, in Atlanta, Georgia, his daughter, Alta Sutton, said.

The equal rights campaigner had lived an extraordinary life and was present at key moments in American history.

Not only was he one of the brave trailblazers who defied threats of violence to march with King in Selma, Alabama, in 1965, he was also present at the Memphis hotel where King was assassinated in 1968.

Years before in 1957, he had played a role in helping nine African-American students enrol at Little Rock Central High School, in Little Rock, Arkansas, following the landmark Brown v Board of Education case which ruled racial segregation in schools was unconstitutional.

"He was a wonderful husband and father," his daughter told Associated Press. "They don't make daddies like him. He was a gem, a rare pearl. He was such a tremendous force. He lived a great life."

In 2012, Sutton earned a Congressional Gold Medal as one of the first African-Americans to serve in the United States Marine Corp.

He was also director of the US Justice Department's Community Relations Service in Atlanta until he retired in 2003.

The activist also served as the general president of the national service fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha and worked for Governor Winthrop Rockefeller and as the director of the Governor's Council on Human Resources.

Sutton also spent time as a journalist for the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

Alta Sutton shared that her father was a gregarious character who was a musician and a physics major.

"It's seems like the longer you have them, the harder it is to let them go," she added. "He's run the race and he has served."

Watch a video of Ozell Sutton giving his first-hand account of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr

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