Jesse Hill, Jr., Civil Rights Leader, Dies At 86

Legendary civil rights pioneer and activist Jesse Hill, Jr., has died at the age of 86. The cause of death has not been released.

The Associated Press reports that the news of the activist’s death came Sunday from David Stokes of the Atlanta Inquirer. Stokes, Deputy Editor for the newspaper, was given the news on Monday from Hill’s wife. The Atlanta Inquirer, the community’s first black newspaper, was founded by Hill along with fellow civil rights leaders in 1960. He was also the newspaper’s publisher until 1985.

Hill began his business career in 1949 after moving to Atlanta, Georgia. He started employment at Atlanta Life Insurance Company where he became the second African American actuary in the United States. Hill’s time as the company’s CEO saw Atlanta Life become the largest black-owned life insurance company in the United States.

Jesse Hill, Jr., continued to make history throughout his career. An article in Atlanta Daily World writes:

“In addition to his historic time as the CEO of Atlanta Life Insurance Co., Hill was the first Black President of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, the first Black Member of the Georgia Board of Regents and the first Black Member of the Board of Directors for Rich’s Department Store.”

Chairing the All-Citizens Registration Committee, Hill was also a leading figure in the desegregation of the Atlanta Public School system and the University System of Georgia. In 2008, he received the honor of induction into the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame.

The St. Louis born activist is survived by his wife, two daughters, and several grandchildren.

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