Civil Rights activist Patricia Stephens Due died of cancer in Atlanta Tuesday. She was 72.
Born in Quincy, Fla. on Dec. 9, 1939, to Lottie Mae Powell Stephens and Horace Walter Stephens, Patricia Stephens would later lead students in the nation’s first jail-in.
Patricia Stephens was a student at Florida A&M starting in 1957. During her time at FAMU, Patricia Stephens and her sister, Priscilla Due, organized the Woolworth sit-in. Students went and tried to order from the “Whites only” lunch counter and on March 17, 1960 the students were found guilty and were told they had to pay a $300.
Eight of the students, including Patricia Stephens and Priscilla, spent 49 days in jail refusing to pay the fines. This was the nation’s first jail-in. While the students were in jail they received support from Martin Luther King Jr. through a telegraph.
Patricia Stephens received her degree from FAMU in 1967; she was later awarded an honorary doctorate degree from FAMU in 2006.
For her work as a civil rights activist, Patricia Stephens was awarded the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Outstanding Leadership, the Ghandi Award for Outstanding Work in Human Relations and the Florida Freedom Award from the NAACP.
“We are deeply sadden by the death of Mrs. Due and have lost one of the nation’s foot soldiers for social justice and civil rights movement,” said FAMU President James H. Ammons in a statement to the press. “It was the work of Mrs. Due that inspired generations of Rattlers to stand up and fight for their beliefs. We will never forget her contributions to this city, state and nation, which spurred a national movement. She was a courageous woman and we are proud to call her a FAMUan.”
A memorial service, which will be held at Lee Hall at FAMU, is being scheduled to honor Patricia Stephens.