Benjamin Muse, 87, a retired official of the Southern Regional Council, a onetime Republican candidate for governor of Virginia, the founder of the Manassas Messenger and a former farmer and diplomat, died of a heart ailment May 4 at his home in Reston.
Following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to end school segregation in 1954, Mr. Muse worked to make integration easier in the South. He did this as director of the leadership program of the Southern Regional Council, one of the early private organizations working for civil rights. He also was a member of a commission appointed by President John F. Kennedy to monitor racial equality in the armed forces.
Mr. Muse was an authority on Virginia's efforts to block the Supreme Court's ruling through "massive resistance," which called for closing public schools instead of permitting them to be integrated under court orders. The policy was dismantled before it was put into effect.
Mr. Muse wrote two books about this difficult period -- "Virginia's Massive Resistance," which appeared in 1961, and "Ten Years of Prelude," which was published in 1964. He also published "The American Negro Revolution" in 1971. In the 1950s and early 1960s he contributed a weekly column to The Washington Post.
A native of Durham, N.C., Mr. Muse grew up in Petersburg, Va. He was educated at what is now Duke University and at George Washington University. During World War I, he enlisted in the British Army and was captured by the Germans.
He joined the U.S. Foreign Service in 1920 and held various posts in Europe and Latin America. While stationed in Mexico, he married Beatriz deRegil.
In 1934, Mr. Muse resigned from the Foreign Service and became a farmer in Petersburg. He was elected to the Virginia Senate as a Democrat, but resigned in 1936 when he broke with the New Deal labor policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt.
He was the GOP candidate for governor in Virginia in 1941. The state being almost wholly Democratic at that time, he lost to Colgate E. Darden by a wide margin. But in the course of the campaign the two men became friends.
During World War II, Mr. Muse was stationed in Washington as an Army lieutenant colonel. After the war, he moved to a farm near Manassas and founded the Manassas Messenger as a weekly newspaper. It is now a daily called the Journal-Messenger.
Mr. Muse sold his interest in the paper in 1950, but he continued to operate a related printing business until 1966. In that year he retired from printing and farming and moved to Reston. He continued his work with the Southern Regional Council into the 1970s.
His wife died in 1983.
Survivors include five children, Benjamin Muse Jr. of South Dennis Port, Mass., Katherine Furcron of Cuernavaca, Mexico, Paul Muse of Suffolk, Va., Phillipa Millard of Gainesville, Va., and Carlota Rokita of Vienna, Austria; 24 grandchildren, and 13 great-grandchildren.