patricia_due_web.jpgCivil rights heroine Patricia Stephens Due, who died peacefully Feb. 7 in an Atlanta hospice after a two-year battle with cancer, renewed her wedding vows with her husband John Due Jr. just a month earlier, on Jan. 5, on the occasion of their 49th wedding anniversary.

Due was surrounded by her family and the nursing staff.  She was overcome with emotion, though unable to speak.

When announcing their wedding in 1963, a Florida newspaper had dubbed the couple “Mr. and Mrs. Civil Rights.” 

During her last public speaking appearance on Feb. 16, 2011, Due and her husband, an attorney and civil rights activist, were the featured speakers at the University of Florida in an event titled “An Evening with the Dues: Pioneers in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement” 

 Due died at age 72 two weeks shy of the 52nd anniversary of her leading role in the student sit-ins in Tallahassee in February 1960.  As a 20-year old student at Florida A&M University and founding member of the local chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), Due and her sister Priscilla and three other FAMU students spent 49 days in jail rather than pay fines after being arrested for sitting at a Woolworth lunch counter, launching the nation’s first “jail-in” during the civil rights movement.

FAMU will honor Due’s legacy by hosting a memorial service starting at 10 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 19, at the university’s Lee Hall Auditorium, 1601 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Tallahassee. A public viewing is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. It will be the day before the 52nd anniversary of the Tallahassee sit-ins.

Interment will take place at St. Hebron AME Church, 1730 St. Hebron Road, Quincy, immediately following the service, with a repast at the National Guard Armory in Quincy,  where the couple lived before moving to the Miami area.

The family is asking that, in lieu of flowers, donations may be made payable to the “John and Patricia Stephens Due Endowed Freedom Scholarship Fund” in care of the Florida A&M University Foundation, Inc., P.O. Box 6562, Tallahassee Fla. 32314-6562.

In addition to her husband and sister, Due is survived by her children, Tananarive Due, a Spelman College professor, novelist, journalist and screenwriter in Atlanta; Johnita Patricia Due, a media lawyer and chief diversity adviser for CNN in Atlanta; and Lydia Due Greisz, an attorney in Dallas; grandchildren, Justin Greisz, 13; Jordan Greisz, 11; Jaxon Due Willoughby, 8; Jason Due-Barnes, 8; and Jovana Due Willoughby, 6; and brother Walter Stephens of Atlanta.

Photo: Patricia Stephens Due