GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — The Rev. T. Anthony Spearman, a civil rights advocate and former president of the North Carolina branch of the NAACP who also served as president of the N.C. Council of Churches, has been found dead, his attorney said Wednesday.
Spearman, 71, died on Tuesday, said Mark Cummings, a Greensboro attorney who said he was representing Spearman. He declined to provide additional details about the death and did not say what he was representing him for.
“In the mold of Dr. King, he truly was a drum major for justice,” Cummings said. “He saw the good in everybody in every situation, even those of his detractors, even those who would criticize him. He always found a way to see the best in them.”
Spearman’s family issued a statement calling him “a man of strong conviction who loved his family with every ounce of his being.” A family member didn’t respond on Wednesday to a request for additional comment.
Bishop William J. Barber, who preceded Spearman as the North Carolina NAACP president and who is now president of the national, not-for-profit organization Repairers of the Breach, said in a statement, “I have lost a true brother in the struggle.”
“We have lost a scholar, a preacher, a voting rights defender, an advocate for prison reform and for the wrongfully accused and a stalwart soldier in the cause of love and justice for all humankind,” Barber said. “This great man’s efforts and commitment should be cherished.”
Spearman was suspended from the NAACP by the organization’s national leadership about five months ago, The News & Observer reported.
According to The Urban News, Spearman filed a 28-page lawsuit in June against national NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson and chairman Leon W. Russell. The lawsuit also named state NAACP President Deborah Dicks Maxwell, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Chapter President Corrine Mack, and four other officers, the news outlet said.
According to the story, the lawsuit accused the officials of defamation and a civil conspiracy to have him removed as the state NAACP president. Spearman alleged in the lawsuit that his support of a woman who said she was sexually harassed by a member of the state conference led to the effort to have him ousted and made him a target of retribution, the story said.
The Rev. Curtis Gatewood, who was identified in the story as the person accused of the sexual harassment, neither confirmed nor denied the allegations in a Facebook post on Tuesday.
“I have no other comments regarding the specifics of the matter at the time and believe enough has been said, documented, and presented for God to allow even a blind man to ‘see’ if seeing is truly desired,” he wrote.
Gatewood said in his Facebook post that while he and Spearman disagreed on issues involving the state NAACP, “I loved the brother.”
“I wanted the news of his demise to be untrue,” Gatewood wrote. “I forgave him.”