NEW YORK - Yesterday, civil rights legend John Payton passed away suddenly, stunning the civil rights and voting rights community. Demos issued the following statement to honor his historic work and the legacy he leaves behind:
"Demos is deeply saddened by the passing of civil rights giant John Payton, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund and a treasured colleague in the fight for civil rights. John’s remarkable career was marked by his passion for justice, his brilliant legal mind and his unsurpassed skill as an advocate for equality, democracy and the inherent dignity of every individual.
"John’s leadership produced countless critical victories for equal opportunity and voting rights over the years. He led the successful strategy to preserve the constitutionality of policies to protect diversity in higher education, culminating in the landmark case of Grutter v. Bollinger. He guided LDF’s defense of the pre-clearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District v. Holder, preserving this key voting rights protection in the face of a constitutional challenge.
"John was also an inspirational force in the civil rights community. At LDF’s yearly gathering of civil rights attorneys at Airlie House in Virginia, John’s passionate articulation of the need for committed legal advocacy to advance and protect civil rights always galvanized those engaged in the struggle for justice, and left them better equipped both professionally and spiritually to fight the necessary battles.
"John will be sorely missed. Demos extends its condolences to his wife, Gay McDougall; his entire family; and to all our colleagues at LDF. We are comforted in knowing that his brilliant legacy will live on through the continued work of LDF and of all whose lives he touched through his powerful example."