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Last Brown v. Board of Ed Plaintiff, Zelma Henderson, Dies

Posted May 22, 2008 10:08 AM CDT
By Molly McDonough

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Zelma Henderson, the sole surviving plaintiff in the landmark desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, died of pancreatic cancer Tuesday. She was 88.

In a news obituary featuring Henderson, the New York Times notes that the lifelong Topeka, Kan., resident was one of the "et al." named plaintiffs in the 1951 Kansas class-action suit, Oliver L. Brown et al. v. the Board of Education of Topeka et al.

After the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in 1954, Henderson went on to become a beautician. The Times reports she often appeared at Brown-related events and was widely used as a source for stories about the case.

Quoted in a Dallas Morning New story in 1994, Henderson said, “None of us knew that this case would be so important and come to the magnitude it has. What little bit I did, I feel I helped the whole nation.”

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