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Civil Rights Activist A. I. “B″ Botnick Dead At 71

October 7, 1995

NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ Longtime civil rights activist A. I. ``B″ Botnick has died of heart disease at the age of 71.

Botnick died Thursday at a hospital.

Botnick, a native of New Orleans, worked in Louisiana and Mississippi during the turbulent years of the civil rights movement _ often maneuvering quietly behind the scenes to try to defuse potential violence and thwart the Ku Klux Klan.

``We tried to mediate, to sit down and listen to both sides,″ he once said. ``I said to them, `You can’t make somebody love you if they do not love you, but if you work within the system, you can pass laws to control their behavior.′ ″

He was once allegedly targeted for assassination by Mississippi white supremacist Byron de la Beckwith. Beckwith was arrested in 1973 driving into New Orleans with a ticking time bomb on his car seat, allegedly headed for Botnick’s house.

Beckwith, who had been charged a decade earlier with the murder of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, was convicted of carrying a bomb across state lines and served five years. Beckwith is currently serving a life sentence in Evers’ slaying.

After becoming known for his activism in the civil rights movement, Botnick was recruited by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith and took a position in its Atlanta office in 1961. He returned to New Orleans in 1964 to become regional director, a position he held until his retirement in 1992.

``The death of A.I. `B’ Botnick is a terrible loss to the ADL and to all those in Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas dedicated to the fight against bigotry, racism and anti-Semitism,″ said Stephen H. Kupperman, chairman of the league’s south central region office in New Orleans.

Survivors include his wife, Fay Waldoff Botnick; a son, Michael Botnick; two daughters, Wendeline Botnick of Houston and Lori B. Fireman of Columbus, Ohio; and eight grandchildren.

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