PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) – A Rhode Island civil rights and business leader has died.
The Providence Journal reports Michael Van Leesten died Friday. He was 80.
Van Leesten helped co-found and served as CEO of the Opportunities Industrialization Center of Rhode Island, which provides job training, career counseling and other programs for people from underserved communities.
He also worked for Connecticut’s Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and helped develop their Foxwoods Resort Casino.
Earlier in life, Van Leesten helped register black people to vote in Alabama in the 1960s. He was also a star basketball player at Rhode Island College.
James Vincent, president of the NAACP Providence branch, called his passing a major blow to the community.
Democratic state Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell, of Providence, said Van Leesten was “synonymous with ‘fighter’ and ‘integrity’ and ‘love’ and ‘compassion’.”