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Zelma Henderson | In segregation case, 88

Zelma Henderson, 88, the last surviving plaintiff in Topeka's

Brown v. Board of Education

case, which led to the historic 1954 Supreme Court ruling outlawing segregation in public schools, has died.

Ms. Henderson died Tuesday in Topeka, Kan., six weeks after being found to have pancreatic cancer.

In 1950, she signed on to the litigation on behalf of her children, challenging Topeka's segregated schools. In all, 13 black parents in Topeka, including the Rev. Oliver Brown, took part in the federal case.

The plaintiffs lost in U.S. District Court, but the case was appealed to the Supreme Court, and consolidated with similar cases from Virginia, South Carolina and Delaware.

The high court's unanimous ruling overturning school segregation came May 17, 1954.

As a child in the 1920s and '30s, Ms. Henderson had attended desegregated schools and was disgusted when she learned her own children would be required to attend segregated schools in Topeka.

"I wanted my children to know all races like I did," she told the Associated Press in 2004. "It means a lot to a person's outlook on life. No inferiority complex at all - that's what I wanted for my children as far as race was concerned."

- AP