Obituaries

Demetrius Newton, 85, civil rights attorney, politician

Demetrius Newton represented icons like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement.
Rob Carr/Associated Press/File 2007
Demetrius Newton represented icons like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement.

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Demetrius Newton, a civil rights attorney who represented figures like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. before becoming the first black person to serve as speaker pro tem of the Alabama House, has died. He was 85.

Representative John Rogers of Birmingham, a longtime friend of Mr. Newton, said he was notified by the lawmaker’s family that he died Wednesday morning.

Mr. Newton was a lawyer for Birmingham and had served in the Legislature since 1986.

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In the Legislature, he was an outspoken critic of Alabama’s 1901 Constitution, which he described as too long and out of date.

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Mr. Newton pushed for years for lawmakers to write a new constitution.

House Speaker Mike Hubbard, Republican of Auburn, described Mr. Newton as a fair man who fought for his district.