Lonnie C. King. Jr.

Lonnie C. King Jr., who died March 5 at the age of 82, is being remembered as an icon of the Civil Rights Movement and his efforts to desegregate Atlanta in the 1960s.

King together with Atlanta University Center students, including Roslyn Pope, Julian Bond, Herschelle Sullivan, Carolyn Long, Frank Smith, Joseph Pierce and others, authored the landmark “An Appeal for Human Rights,” which was published March 9, 1960 as an advertisement in various Atlanta area newspapers. King was the leader of the Atlanta Student Movement, which led sit-ins to desegregate lunch counters in the city, and remained an activist up until the time of his death from a heart condition.

Atlanta city leaders issued statements on King’s passing.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms: “Derek [Bottoms husband] and I were fortunate to count Lonnie King Jr. as an extended family member and dear friend. On behalf of our entire family, we extend our deepest condolences to the King family during this difficult time. Lonnie left an indelible mark on the legacy of both Atlanta and the Civil Rights movement. His life was one of inspiration, one that was committed to the fight for tolerance, equality and fairness. Lonnie used his days to their fullest and will be sorely missed.”

Felicia A. Moore, President, Atlanta City Council: “The passing of Dr. Lonnie King is a loss that will be felt across Atlanta and beyond. He was a visionary who embodied bravery and tactfulness in the face of danger. Like many of our great civil rights leaders, Dr. Lonnie King captivated the hearts and minds of thousands of people and showed them that there is strength in numbers. His tenacity and organization of like-minded students led to the desegregation of Atlanta’s public institutions and we are all grateful for their bravery. He was authentic in his words and actions and I am proud of the legacy he has left behind. I hope that his life will influence the youth of our generation to be authentic, courageous, and hopeful.”

Michael Julian Bond, Post 1 At-Large Representative, Atlanta City Council: “I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. Lonnie King, Jr. Dr. King was the individual that inspired the Atlanta Student Movement that desegregated Atlanta and led to the narrative of Atlanta being the ‘City Too Busy to Hate.’ Lonnie approached my father, Julian Bond, and another student on March 4, 1960 in the Yates & Milton Café and talked about whether or not the sit-ins that began in North Carolina should happen in Atlanta.  Out of that conversation, the Committee on Appeal for Human Rights was formed with students from all of the Atlanta University Center Colleges that led to the desegregation of Atlanta public institutions in 1960.  Lonnie was a great leader, mentor, teacher, and friend. We have lost one of the greatest, yet most woefully unsung Civil Rights giants of his generation.  He will be sorely missed by myself and my family.”

Andre Dickens, Post 3 At-Large Representative, Atlanta City Council: “Dr. Lonnie King, Jr. was always wise, thoughtful, and humble when I would see him. He wasn’t boastful about how brave he was in 1960 when he and other young students protested against segregation right here in Atlanta.  I recall quite vividly soaking up all of his stories, conviction, optimism, and wit on a long bus ride to Selma, AL a few years back to remember Bloody Sunday. “Today, I’m sad at hearing of his passing.  We’ve lost yet another irreplaceable giant that gave so much to our city and our nation.  Nonetheless, I smile as I wonder what he’s enjoying at heaven’s lunch counter today?” 

Andrea L. Boone, District 10 Representative, Atlanta City Council: “My heart is truly heavy at the passing of Lonnie King, Jr., a true legend in the Civil Rights Movement. He left an indelible mark on our city as an activist and founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and leader of the Committee on the Appeal for Human Rights. He was a personal friend to my family and me as well. It was my father, Rev. Joseph E. Boone, who allowed Lonnie, Julian Bond and other socially conscious students from the Atlanta University Center to gather at Rush Memorial Congregational Church to plan their protests against segregated downtown lunch counters and department stores when the colleges they attended refused to do so. Lonnie was an unsung hero, and he will never be forgotten. With his humble work in life, he has truly left his footprints in the sands of time.”

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.