WARSAW, Poland (AP) — American philanthropist and educator Charles E. Merrill, Jr., has died at his home in southern Poland. He was 97.

The head of the Polish Literary Institute in Paris, Wojciech Sikora, citing close relatives, said Merrill died Wednesday.

He said it was "very sad news" for everyone connected to the institute that has received Merrill's support.

The institute has awarded Merrill a special prize for his life achievement that was due to be given to him in Warsaw next Monday, Sikora said.

A Harvard graduate, Merrill was the son of Charles E. Merrill, one of the founders of the Merrill Lynch & Co. banking firm. As a young man he served in the army during World War II.

He then devoted his life to founding schools and supporting the education of the underprivileged in the U.S., Poland and the Czech Republic. He campaigned for the rights of African Americans in the U.S.

He supported a middle school in Nowy Sacz, in Poland's southern Pieniny Mountains region, where he and his wife Julie Boudreaux taught. He also sponsored the education of Polish students in the U.S.

A writer and painter, Merrill was friends with Poland's authors, including the 1980 Nobel Literature Prize winner Czeslaw Milosz. He financially supported the Literary Institute to publish the writings of Milosz and of other writers.

Merrill had a home in Boston and in Nowy Sacz, where he and his wife owned a modest apartment.

In 2002, Poland's government awarded him the Officers' Cross of the Order of Merit.

A farewell ceremony will be held for him on Saturday in Nowy Sacz, and the burial will take place in the U.S., Sikora told The Associated Press.