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Georgia Powers, Kentucky Civil Rights Pioneer, Has Died

Kentucky Commission on Human Rights

Former Kentucky state Sen. Georgia Powers has died.

Powers was the first African American and first woman elected to the Kentucky Senate, where she served for 21 years beginning in 1968.

She was 92.

Powers was born in Springfield in Washington County, but she grew up in Louisville. She became involved in social justice work during the Civil Rights Movement and helped organize the March on Frankfort in 1964.

The first bill she sponsored as a state senator was to provide equity in housing.

Powers lived most of her life in West Louisville and was a champion of its neighborhoods. A portion of Interstate 264 is named for her.

She also served as vice president of the Louisville NAACP from 2004 to 2015.

Later in her life, Powers revealed in an autobiography that she had an intimate relationship with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The revelation drew criticism, but she defended it, saying it was part of who she was.

Powers died at 3:40 a.m. on Saturday, according to Raoul Cunningham, president of the Louisville NAACP and Powers’ lifelong friend. She had been suffering from congestive heart failure, according to The Courier-Journal.

In a statement, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said Powers was an inspirational figure.

“Our city, our state and our country mourn the passing of Senator Powers, whose legacy and leadership helped build a greater Louisville and a stronger commonwealth,” Fischer said. “Her compassion and dedication to ensuring a level playing for all people — and her willingness to always stand up for what was right — inspired me and generations of people.”

Reports from public radio stations in Kentucky.