Ogden civil rights leader dies at 88

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OGDEN, Utah (AP) -- James H. Gillespie, who was president of the Ogden chapter of the NAACP for 33 years, has died. He was 88.

Gillespie's son, Jim Gillespie Jr., says his father died Wednesday at an assisted-living home in Ogden after a long illness.

The elder Gillespie was president of the Ogden chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People at the height of the civil rights movement, serving from 1963 until his retirement in 1996.

"For many of us, Mr. Gillespie's name is synonymous with NAACP and social justice," Betty Sawyer, Ogden branch president of the NAACP, said in an e-mail to the Standard-Examiner in Ogden.

After growing up in Mississippi, Jim Gillespie said his father came to Utah during World War II and made his home in the mostly white state. He said the elder Gillespie's home had a bucket of tar and bricks thrown threw the window.

Gillespie helped lead the fight against racism and segregation, which was still practiced when he came to Utah.

"Dad never stood back or stepped down from anyone," Jim Gillespie said.

Gillespie is survived by his wife, Bettye, six children, nine grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

Jim Gillespie said the family hoped his father, who had suffered from strokes, understood last fall when Barack Obama became the first black man elected president.

He said that since his father's death, the family had received calls and e-mails from people who had been helped by Gillespie over the decades.

"You didn't have to be a person of color for dad and Bettye to help. If you were being wronged they were there to help make sure things would be righted," Jim Gillespie said.

Funeral services are scheduled for Wednesday at Myers Mortuary in Ogden.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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