George Bundy Smith, Yale Civil Rights “Freedom Rider” Passes At Home In Harlem

A retired judge on New York state’s highest court who was arrested as a civil rights “Freedom Rider” while a Yale law student has died. George Bundy Smith was 80.

George Bundy Smith Jr. says his father died at his home in Harlem on Saturday after a short illness.

The elder Smith was appointed to the Court of Appeals by Gov. Mario Cuomo in 1992 and served until 2006. Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said Smith “remained soft-spoken, self-effacing and completely dedicated to fairness and justice for all people throughout his career.”

On a 1961 Freedom Ride to Alabama led by the Rev. William Sloane Coffin Jr., Smith and fellow riders were arrested for sitting at a whites-only lunch counter. Their convictions were overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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