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Jean Gordon, Little Rock activist for peace and civil rights, dies at 97

Little Rock human rights activist Jean Gordon, who fought for equality and peace for over 60 years, died at 97.

Jean Gordon, an advocate for human rights from Little Rock who was at the forefront of the fight for equality and peace, passed away at the age of 97. Her impactful work began during the school segregation crisis of 1957-59 and continued through the end of the Cold War and into the new millennium.

Born in Little Rock in 1926, Gordon gained prominence as a member of the Women's Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools, opposing the closure of Little Rock high schools for the 1958-59 school year, a resistance to federal racial desegregation led by then-Governor Orval Faubus.

In addition to her civil rights work, Gordon was a vocal advocate for peace and nuclear disarmament. She was involved with the Arkansas Peace Center and the board of Arkansas Peace Links. After Peace Links disbanded, Gordon founded the Arkansas chapter of Women's Action for New Directions (WAND), advocating for a reduction in violence and militarism and the abolishment of nuclear weapon use.

Gordon also supported Bill Clinton during his 1976 run for Arkansas attorney general.

Gordon's daughter, Anne Perry, recalled the backlash her mother faced for her moral stance during the dramatic time of school integration in Little Rock. Despite hostile phone calls and protests, Gordon continued to offer a message of hope and advocate for equality.

Gordon's interest in other cultures and social change was evident from her time studying philosophy at Wellesley College in Massachusetts and her frequent travel. She even traveled to Russia during the Cold War to advocate for peace.

Throughout her life, Gordon was involved in various organizations, promoting holistic consciousness and serving on multiple boards. She was passionate about taking action to reduce climate change, practiced frugality, and embraced social changes such as gender identity issues.

Gordon's activism extended to her children, fostering a spirit of empathy and activism in them. She was present at many demonstrations and instilled the value of fighting for justice in her kids.

Even in her final days, Gordon continued to practice activism. At the age of 97, while battling cancer, she participated in public protests, demonstrating her unwavering commitment to her causes.

Jean Gordon's legacy as a human rights activist and advocate for peace will continue to inspire future generations to stand up for equality and justice.

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