Kelly Alexander Sr., 69, a veteran civil rights crusader and chairman of the NAACP, died April 2 at his home in Charlotte, N.C. The cause of death was not reported.
Mr. Alexander's election as chairman of the 400,000-member organization in January capped his 47-year commitment to civil rights issues.
He joined the NAACP in 1938, attracted by its emphasis on legal methods to give full rights to blacks. That year, whites tried unsuccessfully to get their black employees to boycott his Alexander Funeral Home.
During the early 1960s, Mr. Alexander fought quietly but effectively to integrate restaurants and hotels in Charlotte.
On Nov. 22, 1965, bombs went off in the homes of Mr. Alexander and other black leaders in Charlotte. Mr. Alexander said he survived by sheer luck.
Mr. Alexander was also behind Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1969 that opened the way for busing to integrate schools. He pushed other lawsuits to open opportunities for blacks in long-distance trucking.
"My objective is for people to learn to love each other and live happily together," Mr. Alexander said in an interview last year. "I don't think there's any better Utopia than that."
Mr. Alexander's major contribution to the civil rights movement was "the hope and aspiration he provided for minorities across the country," said Julius Chambers, director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
"Kelly was somewhat like a father in the movement," said Chambers, who is from Charlotte. "Kelly was never that big on open demonstrations. He preferred sitting down and getting people to reason. If he engaged in any loud protest at all, it was only after efforts to sit down and negotiate had failed."
Survivors include his wife, Margaret; two sons, Kelly Jr. and Alfred; and two brothers.