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US woman who fought early for right to vote dies

July 31, 2013

BOSTON (AP) — Lillian Bonner Sutson, a little-known U.S. civil rights activist whose attempts to register as a voter set a precedent in the fight against segregation and voting discrimination in the South, has died.

Her grandson, Marcus Jones, said Wednesday that Sutson died of age-related causes Monday. She was believed to be 99.

Sutson, the granddaughter of a slave, went with her mother and two other black women to register as Democrats in 1940 in South Carolina. They were denied, threatened and verbally abused, sparking a federal criminal case.

Thurgood Marshall, a future Supreme Court justice, served as their attorney.

They lost the case, but Marshall used the experience to pursue others that ultimately helped strike down voter discrimination and segregation.

Sutson’s efforts were cited in a letter from first lady Michelle Obama shortly before the president’s second inaugural this year, Jones said.

“Your example of service shows ... that each of us can make a difference for those around us,” Obama wrote, according to Jones.

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