GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — A family has released a statement in regards to the death of their patriarch, a former North Carolina NAACP president.

The News and Record is reporting that Reverand T. Anthony Spearman died on Tuesday at the age of 71. News of Spearman’s death broke on Wednesday.

In addition to his single term as the NC NAACP president, he was the president of the NC Council of Churches and served on the Guilford County Board of Elections.

His family released a statement regarding his passing. It reads:

The Spearman Family is utterly devastated by the transition of our patriarch, Reverend Dr. T. Anthony Spearman. He was a man of strong conviction who loved his family with every ounce of his being.  We solicit your prayers as we grieve this insurmountable loss and request your consideration and privacy as we go through this season of bereavement.  

The Spearman Family

My heart is broken by the death of Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman. Tears seem not to be enough so I have not cried yet. Instead, I’ve only been silent and in prayer for his family.  I have lost a true brother in the struggle. North Carolina and the nation have lost a champion of justice and a beloved public servant. We have all lost a freedom fighter, a man deeply committed to justice, and a man of true faith. We have lost a scholar, a preacher, a voting rights defender, an advocate for prison reform and for the wrongfully accused and a stalwart soldier in the cause of love and justice for all humankind. This man’s efforts and commitment should be cherished. We must honor his life and continue his work. But right now, we must love and support his wife and his family. Now we must only focus on honorably laying him to rest. He fought the good fight and his course has been finished. But his legacy of service and works will follow him. We are certain of that. Let all people of conscience say, ‘Amen.’

Bishop William J. Barber II

Spearman was elected as NC NAACP president in 2017, succeeding Rev. William Barber. He served one term and lost reelection to Deborah Dicks Maxwell. He contested the election and had recently filed a lawsuit against national NAACP leadership and Maxwell. He was alleging defamation and a “conspiracy” to have him removed from office.

Spearman was a staunch advocate of social justice, standing against an NC amendment that defined marriage as “between one man and one woman” and traveling the state to really people against policies that targeted poor people, people of color or the gay community.

Local civil rights leaders have also taken to social media to mourn his passing.

Gregory Drumwright wrote on his Facebook page:

My friend, our brother in the fight, former NAACP State Prez, the legendary Rev. Dr. TA Spearman is no longer with us. I am in total shock and disbelief. Please join the community of Justice and believers in prayer and mourning for his wife, family & friends. Spearman you will not be forgotten. Your work is upon our shoulders.