Stanford University The Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute
Patricia Stephens Due, Civil Rights Veteran, Died Tuesday
February 14, 2012

Patricia Stephens Due embodied her own belief that "ordinary people can do extraordinary things." 
She was born in Quincy, Fla. on December 9, 1939 to Lottie Mae Powell Stephens and Horace Walter Stephens.  The second of three children, her career as a civil rights demonstrator began at the age of 13 when she successfully began using the "white only" window at the local Dairy Queen.  In high school she and her older sister, Priscilla, continued "testing things" when they began a school wide petition to remove the principal.  At 19, she was a founding member of Tallahassee's Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) chapter and began planning organized sit-ins.  Along with seven other students, Due was arrested when they attempted to be served at the "white only" counter at the Tallahassee Woolworth's on 20 February 1962.  Convicted of "inciting to riot" they were ordered to pay $300 fines or serve sixty days in jail. They refused to pay the fines and ended up serving forty-nine days in jail. 

These courageous acts received attention from national figures such as Jackie Robinson, Eleanor Roosevelt, James Baldwin and Harry Belafonte.  Dr. King wrote the students in March after they had begun serving their sentences applauding their courage and willingness to remain in jail.  "Through this decision you have again proven that there is nothing more majestic and sublime than the determined courage of individuals willing to suffer and sacrifice for the cause of freedom."

Due was willing to suffer for the cause of freedom. According to her husband, John Due, "I never met any person willing to sacrifice herself the way Patricia did. She was beaten, arrested, suspended... She had the same kind of moral force as Rosa Parks. She would not give in to these practices of society that demeaned people and were against humanity...All her life she has had a spirit for righteousness and justice."  Her involvement in civil rights demonstrations delayed her education as it took her almost a decade to finish her degree from Florida A & M.  She also sustained a permanent injury to her eyes when she was hit by a tear gas canister launched by the Tallahassee police, in their attempts to disrupt a mass meeting at a local church.

Throughout the her life she was continually involved working with political campaigns, human rights issues and youth education.  She has been featured in The History Channel's "Voices of Civil Rights" in 2006, and is referenced in more than 20 books.  In 2003, Due and her daughter, Tananarive, published "Freedom in the Family: A Mother-Daughter Memoir of the Fight for Civil Rights." 

She is survived by her husband, her sister, her brother, three daughters and five grandchildren.

She was often quoted as saying, "Stories live forever. Storytellers don't."

Read more here:

Dr. King's Letter to the students of Tallahassee

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