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Chokwe Lumumba dies at 66; activist, attorney was Jackson, Miss. mayor

Chokwe Lumumba dies at 66; activist, attorney was Jackson, Miss. mayor
Chokwe Lumumba became mayor of Jackson, Miss., last year after working as a prominent attorney and human rights activist. (Rogelio V. Solis, Associated Press)

Chokwe Lumumba, 66, a human rights activist and nationally prominent attorney who became mayor of Jackson, Miss., last year, died Tuesday at a Jackson hospital, city officials said. The cause wasn't immediately clear.

As an attorney, Lumumba represented Tupac Shakur in cases including one in which the rapper was cleared of aggravated assault in the shootings of two off-duty police officers who were visiting Atlanta from another city when they were wounded. Shakur died in 1996.

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Lumumba also represented Lance Parker, one of the defendants in the attack on truck driver Reginald O. Denny at the beginning of the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Parker was convicted of two of five charges.

In 2011, Lumumba persuaded then-Gov. Haley Barbour to release sisters Jamie and Gladys Scott from a Mississippi prison after they served 16 years for an armed robbery they said they didn't commit. Barbour suspended their life sentences but didn't pardon them.

Lumumba, a Democrat, served one term on the Jackson City Council and was sworn in as mayor last July.

Lumumba was born in 1947 in Detroit as Edwin Taliaferro, and changed his name in 1969, when he was in his early 20s. He said he took his new first name from an African tribe that resisted slavery centuries ago and his last name from African independence leader Patrice Lumumba.

He moved to Jackson in 1971 as a human rights activist. He earned a law degree from Wayne State University in Michigan in the mid-1970s and returned to Jackson in 1988.

Lumumba was involved with the Republic of New Afrika in the 1970s and '80s. He said in 2013 that the group had advocated "an independent predominantly black government" in the southeastern United States. Lumumba was vice president of the group during part of his stint. The group also advocated reparations for slavery, and was watched by an FBI counterintelligence operation.

From Times wire reports

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