Civil Rights Icon Rev. T. J. Jemison passes away

Rev. T.J. Jemison
Rev. T.J. Jemison

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Civil Rights Icon Rev. T.J. Jemison who helped lead the 1953 Baton Rouge bus boycott and served as the former longtime pastor of Mount Zion First Baptist Church has died.

His son, Ted Jemison Jr., tells 9News that his father passed away Friday evening, Nov. 15  at  Our  Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge. He was 95 years old.

"I've been getting calls from around the world," Jemison says. "He made an impact around the world. He was my dad and my best friend. He taught me a lot."

He says his dad's health had been up and down for awhile. 

Jemison was born in Selma, Ala., to a preacher father and became pastor of Mount Zion First Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, La., in 1949, a position he held for the next 54 years.

Jemison and others helped organize a boycott of Baton Rouge buses by black riders in 1953, a protest that pre-dated the famous year-long bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala.

The Baton Rouge boycott is not as well-known as the one in Alabama, which Jemison attributed to its much shorter duration — eight days. Still, the boycott by black riders — aimed at protesting segregated seating on buses that relegated blacks to the back — got attention.

Seats in the front of Baton Rouge city buses were for white riders only. Even if those "white" seats were empty, black riders had to stand if seats set aside for them in the back of the bus were full.

According to the Associated Press, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. called Jemison when planning the boycott in Montgomery two years later.

Jemison was president of the National Black Convention, the largest black Baptists organization in the United States.

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu release the following statement mourning the death of Reverend Jemison:

"Our state mourns the loss of Rev. T.J. Jemison, but we also celebrate his life. Rev. Jemison was one of Louisiana's courageous civil rights leaders. He provided strong leadership as president of the National Baptist Convention, and he was fiercely dedicated to his family and Mount Zion First Baptist Church in Baton Rouge. To all of us that knew him, he was a true inspiration. I am grateful and honored to have known him. My deepest condolences go out to his family and all of those whose lives he touched. He will be greatly missed."

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Copyright 2013 WAFB. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.