Columbia civil rights activist Beatrice McKnight dies at 71

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Beatrice McKnight was a woman of integrity, courage and strength, and if you don't know her name, you should. The civil rights activist died Monday at the age of 71.
She was a woman who never feared anything or anyone, especially when it came to fighting for what she believed was right.

A powerful force who dedicated her life to helping others, Beatrice McKnight worked tirelessly to right the wrongs in society. She was a woman who made things happen.

"She also had the courage to take a stand against injustice," said J.T. McLawhorn, President and CEO of the Columbia Urban League. "She didn't worry about any repercussions, because she knew God had her back."

McLawhorn knew McKnight for more than 30 years. In 2007, she received the Urban League's distinguished Whitney M. Young, Jr. Award for her efforts to promote equal opportunity.

Her passion for civil rights took her to the march on Washington for Dr. King's "I have a dream" speech, and led her to fight segregation in Richland One schools.

McLawhorn says even at the age of 71, she still had a gift for inspiring young people. "She let young people know that you stand of the shoulders of nameless people who paved the way for you, don't think you got their on your own," said McLawhorn.

Of all the lives she touched, the people she influenced the most were her own children. "She was a driving force without actually pushing you, her voice would drive us," said Andre McKnight, her oldest son. "So I will miss the strength my mother gave me, all of us"

Andre McKnight said one of his mother's proudest moments came just last month, when she was named an honoree on the 2011 AT&T African-American history calendar. "I never saw her bubble over like that, she could actually spin in the room before we left," he said. "So she was so proud to have been selected, honored to be placed on that calendar"

"Momma just, she always appreciated where she came from," continued McKnight.

Beatrice McKnight's funeral will be held Saturday at bethel AME in Columbia at noon. The service is open to the public. McLawhorn said mayor Steve Benjamin will issue a proclamation honoring McKnight's service to the community.

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