Educator and political reformer Myles Horton, founder of a Tennessee training center that became an influential spawning ground for the U.S. labor and civil rights movements, has died after a 2 1/2-year battle with cancer.
Horton, 84, whose Highlander Research and Education Center survived attacks by the Ku Klux Klan, McCarthyites and Southern politicians, slipped into a coma Jan. 13 in his home at the center in Newmarket, Tenn. His son and daughter were at his side when he died Friday, center officials said.
Horton's students and associates included Eleanor Roosevelt, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., union leader John L. Lewis and former U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young. Seamstress Rosa Parks attended a Highlander workshop two weeks before her refusal to give her seat to a white man sparked the 1955 bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala. His most controversial work was a literacy program that taught thousands of blacks to read and write so they could register to vote in the 1950s.
Born in 1905 in Savannah, Tenn., Horton decided society's wrongs could be corrected by organizing people into unions and grass-roots groups seeking political and economic reform. He started the Highlander Folk School in 1932 on a farm in Monteagle, a coal-mining town near Chattanooga. It soon became the main training center for union activists in the South and the desegregation movement.
He retired as the center's director in 1973.