Dr. Robert B. Hayling, 86, a dentist and influential civil rights activist in Florida during the 1960s, died Sunday at home in Fort Lauderdale, his sister, Yvonne Hayling-Clarke, told the AP. No cause of death has been determined.
Considered the founder of "The St. Augustine Movement," Dr. Hayling was a leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the city.
In 1963, he persuaded Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson not to attend the segregated 400th anniversary commemoration of St. Augustine's founding. When Johnson visited the city later that year for a building dedication, two banquet tables were set aside for black residents at Dr. Hayling's insistence.
Dr. Hayling supported the "St. Augustine Four," members of the NAACP Youth Council who spent six months in a Florida jail and reform school in 1964 after they asked to be served at a Woolworth's lunch counter in the city.
They were released only after protests by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., baseball star Jackie Robinson, and others popularized their predicament, according to the ACCORD Civil Rights Museum.
"He motivated us. He made us feel like we were doing something right, and he backed us up a hundred percent in that," Audrey Nell Edwards, one of four, said in a museum news release.
Dr. Hayling and three others were beaten at a Ku Klux Klan rally in September 1963. In February 1964, someone fired shots into his home, killing his dog and narrowly missing his pregnant wife, Athea. The street is now named Dr. R.B. Hayling Place.
The events in St. Augustine are cited as influential moments in the civil rights movement that led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. - AP