MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Rev. James L. Netters Sr., a civil rights advocate who was one of the first Black members of the Memphis City Council, has died. He was 93.
Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Memphis announced Netters’ death on its website Sunday. Netters served as the church’s pastor for more than 60 years.
“Our prayers are with the friends and family of Rev. Dr. James Netters,” the City Council said in a statement on Twitter. “He was one of the first African American Memphis City Council members and his legacy will never be forgotten.”
The cause of death was not immediately known. A message to the church was not returned Sunday evening.
Netters helped lead sit-ins, marches and other protests as he and the Rev. Billy Kyles worked to integrate Memphis’ public buses in 1964. Kyles died in 2016.
Netters was elected to the City Council in 1967 along with two other African Americans, Fred L. Davis and J.O. Patterson. Davis, who later became the council’s first Black chairman, died earlier this year at age 86.
As a city councilman, Netters marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in support of a Memphis sanitation workers’ strike in 1968. It was King’s final act as a civil rights leader. He was assassinated on the balcony of Memphis’ Lorraine Motel where he stayed.
“Very sorry to hear of the passing of Rev. Dr. James Netters, a giant in Memphis as a religious, elected and civic leader,” Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said on Twitter. “He was instrumental on the 1st city council in 1968. I always enjoyed listening to his sermons at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church, or simply visiting with him.”
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