Elwin Wilson, a former Ku Klux Klan member who later apologized for his racist actions, has died.
According to an Associated Press report, Wilson died at a South Carolina hospital at the age of 76. Wilson’s wife, Judy, related that he had struggled with hearth and lung problems for years, and recently contracted the flu.
It isn’t often that members of the Ku Klux Klan publicly renounce their views on race, but Wilson made news with a very public apology in 2009. He apologized directly to John Lewis, a U.S. Representative from Georgia. Wilson had reportedly taken part in a beating which included Lewis during a civil rights march in the early 60s.
Wilson admitted to being a Ku Klux Klan member in the past, but stated that he could not reconcile his religious beliefs with his racism. He recalled that he attended cross burnings, hung effigies, and threw fruit at black men during his time with the Klan.
Lewis has stated that Wilson’s apology was meaningful to him as it was the first apology he received for the violence he encountered during his time as a freedom rider in 1961.