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Matthew Little, Civil Rights Legend, Remembered In Mpls.

(credit: CBS) Holly Wagner
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A man who broke color barriers and led Minnesota in the Civil Rights Movement was remembered Saturday.

Matthew Little, long-time president of the Minneapolis NAACP, passed away last Sunday after complications from pneumonia. He was 92.

Hundreds of people gathered for a memorial service at Shiloh Temple in north Minneapolis.

Little moved to Minneapolis from North Carolina in 1948. He applied to be a firefighter but was rejected because of his race.

He fought locally to desegregate the fire department and later led Minnesotans in the March on Washington, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963.

Senator Amy Klobuchar was one of several dignitaries who spoke at Saturday’s service.

“Our North Star state is missing one of its brightest lights today, the gentle giant of the Civil Rights Movement in Minnesota,” Klobuchar said.

Many spoke of Little’s efforts to inspire young people into becoming leaders in the community, and his emphasis on education.

Little was the father of six children, and was a grandfather and great grandfather.

His grandson, Demani Bediako, shared a story about the summer he did landscaping for his grandfather while working to pay for college.

“I was helping … carrying this big old log and I couldn’t carry it. I was like ‘Grandpa, it’s too heavy, I can’t carry it,’” Bediako said. “He was like ‘Move out of the way boy,’ and he grabbed it and he carried it himself … 87 years old.”

A determined and feisty spirit even in his final years, Little will be remembered as a selfless leader, a family man and a great champion of civil rights.

“He taught me a lot in terms of what it takes to be a man and to care for your family,” Bediako said.

His family established a memorial Fund in his honor, which will benefit students in need pay for college.

You can send donations to the Minneapolis Foundation/Matthew Little Memorial Fund at 80 South 8th Street, Suite 800, Minneapolis, Minn. 55402.