12-10-2016  2:43 am      •     

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- Longtime Birmingham civil rights leader Abraham Woods, who stood behind Martin Luther King during his "I Have a Dream" speech, has died after a long illness. He was 80.
He was pronounced dead Friday in the emergency department of Princeton Baptist Medical Center in Birmingham, hospital spokeswoman Jennifer Dodd said. He had been battling cancer for several years.
Woods helped coordinate the March on Washington and stood behind King in 1963, looking out over a crowd of 250,000 as King gave his famous speech.
Woods served as longtime president of the Birmingham chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He often led community marches in Birmingham to protest police shootings, slumlords and neighborhood violence.
The Rev. Woods had been pastor of St. Joseph Baptist Church since 1967 and was pastor of the First Metropolitan Baptist Church in the early 1960s.
At a news conference in 2004 to protest a police shooting Woods felt was unjustified, he identified himself to the members of the media who might not know him.
"Those of you who have been around for some time know that I've sometimes been called a troublemaker in the city of Birmingham, an agitator," Woods said. "I don't resent that because I remember the little old lady said if a washing machine didn't have an agitator, then it wouldn't get the clothes clean."
His brother, the Rev. Calvin Woods, said Abraham "labored until he couldn't labor anymore" and "finished well. He finished the race that God set for him.
"He ran the Christian race," Calvin Woods said. "He worked. He was faithful. He was dedicated. He was consecrated to the work. So today God called him home, and I believe God told him he finished well."

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