Alvin Sykes, Kansas Metropolis civil rights chief, dies at age 64

KANSAS CITY, MO – Alvin Sykes spent his life fighting for civil rights and investigating the murders of African Americans killed during the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s.

He died Friday morning at the age of 64 from complications from a spinal injury sustained two years ago.

Sykes never graduated from high school. Instead, he told people that he had moved from public school to public library. There he studied civil rights issues and law.

Decades later, he convinced the US Department of Justice to reopen the Emmett Till case. Till was a 14-year-old African American who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955. He was accused of insulting and killing a white woman. The woman later withdrew.

Sykes didn’t stop reopening the case. He then worked until Congress passed the Emmett Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Act. Funded by then-Rep. John Lewis, the law provides funding and federal assistance to investigate unsolved murders.

It is with deep sadness that we announce that Alvin Sykes has passed away. Among many other awards, he helped create the Emmett Till Justice Campaign. He was a friend and inspiration to many. He is pictured at the bottom left with Rev. Parker and Jerry Mitchell.

– Emmett Till Interpretive Center (@EmmeTillcenter) March 19, 2021

Sykes has done a lot of work here in Kansas City too to achieve justice for subway families and equal representation. Mayor Quinton Lucas tweeted that the city will miss him and his leadership.

In 2009, C-SPAN came to Kansas City to record a series of videos about the life of Sykes.

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