Harriet McBryde Johnson, 50, a civil- and disability-rights attorney who drew national attention by protesting the annual Jerry Lewis muscular dystrophy telethon, has died.

Ms. Johnson, who suffered from congenital neuromuscular disease, died Wednesday in her sleep at home in Charleston, S.C. The cause of death had not been determined, said her father, David D. Johnson.

Ms. Johnson, who handled cases for the poor and working class, protested the telethon for almost 20 years, objecting to what she called the show's "charity mentality" and "pity-based tactics."

She wrote in her 2005 memoir,

Too Late to Die Young,

that the telethon first had sent her the message that her neuromuscular disease eventually would kill her.

- AP