Lillie Ayers dead at the age of 85

By Jack Elliott Jr./The Associated Press

JACKSON — Lillie B. Ayers, who became the lead plaintiff in Mississippi’s college desegregation lawsuit after the death of her husband, has died at her home in Glen Allan. She was 85.

Henry Ayers, Lillie Ayers’ son, says his mother died about 3 a.m. Sunday at her home in Glen Allan in Washington County. He says she died of complications related from bone cancer. Funeral services are pending.

Jake Ayers Sr. died in 1986, six years before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled higher education in Mississippi was segregated. Ayers filed the lawsuit against the state’s university system in 1975. It cited inequitable funding for the state’s three predominantly black universities.

A settlement was finally approved in 2004 when appeals were exhausted.