CIVIL RIGHTS ORGANIZER DIES
John Hunter Gray, seen in an iconic photo challenging segregation at a Mississippi lunch counter, has died.
A community organizer shown in an iconic photograph while challenging racial segregation at a Mississippi lunch counter in the 1960s has died at his home in Pocatello, Idaho.
Known by his birth name John Salter Jr. when he worked at historically black Tougaloo College in Mississippi, he later changed his name to John Hunter Gray to honor the Native American part of his ancestry. He sometimes went by the nickname Hunter Bear Gray.
Relatives say he was 84 when he died Monday after an illness.
Salter was a sociology teacher and NAACP youth adviser in Mississippi in the early 1960s, working closely with Mississippi NAACP leader Medgar Evers.
In May 1963, Salter joined black and white Tougaloo students during a sit-in at a segregated lunch counter at the Woolworth’s store in downtown Jackson. A mob of young white people doused them with sugar, mustard and ketchup and attacked Salter with brass knuckles and broken glass.
The taunting crowd and the peaceful protesters were captured in a blackand-white photograph that gained international attention.
“I was burned with cigarettes, hit and had pepper thrown in my eyes,” Salter, by then known as Gray, wrote in an article published in The Guardian in 2015. “The women weren’t struck, but had their hair pulled. All the while the air was filled with obscenities, the nword – it was a lavish display of unbridled hatred.”
Salter grew up in Arizona and worked as a labor union organizer in the U.S. Southwest before moving to Mississippi, said one of his sons, John Salter of Lincoln, Nebraska.
John Salter said his father lived by a favorite phrase from the Industrial Workers of the World labor union: “An injury to one is an injury to all.”
Gray is survived by two sons and two daughters. His wife of more than 50 years, Eldri Salter, died in 2015.