Daisy Bates, 84, who as head of the Arkansas NAACP in 1957 shepherded the black students known as the Little Rock Nine to integrate Central High School over the objection and obstruction of Gov. Orval E. Faubus and throngs of their white neighbors, died Nov. 4 at Baptist Medical Center in Little Rock, where she had been since Sept. 18. No cause of death was reported.
The recipient of two burned crosses and other expressions of disgust and fear, Mrs. Bates, who was black, fed and prayed with the Little Rock teenagers and counseled them not to retaliate against the spitting and rock-throwing mob as the war between federal and state authority was captured on television.
For one period during the Little Rock school integration crisis, Mrs. Bates carried a gun. One day, after she had received empty gun cartridges in an envelope, she fired a shot from her home--purposely missing. "They can't make a murderer out of me," she told The Washington Post in 1977.
She later wrote a book, "The Long Shadow of Little Rock," which won a 1988 American Book Award, and received more than 200 awards and citations. In 1958, she shared with the nine students the Spingarn Medal, the NAACP's highest honor.
"Her profession and preoccupation were the same thing," Julian Bond, the chairman of the NAACP board of directors, said in an interview yesterday. "She demonstrated to a worldwide audience that civil rights work was women's work, too."
Mrs. Bates would say in later years that any portrait of her as fearless was less than accurate. "Who said I wasn't afraid? You acted because you believed, you were committed."
She was committed long before late summer 1957. She and her husband, Lucius C. Bates, ran the Arkansas State Press from 1941 to 1959, championing justice for blacks, whom she reported were beaten and killed regularly throughout the South. Mr. Bates died in 1980.
In 1955, her paper chronicled the repeated attempts of black students to enroll in historically all-white schools after the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled against forced segregation the year before. By 1957, a federal court ruled that Central High must integrate, but Faubus ordered the state's National Guard to keep the black students out of the school.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent the Army's 101st Airborne Division to carry out the court's mandate.
After the Little Rock ordeal, Mrs. Bates worked for voter registration projects for the Democratic National Committee. She was past president of the NAACP's Little Rock chapter and president of the state conference of NAACP branches.
In 1987, Daisy Bates Elementary School opened in Little Rock. And in 1991, the NAACP named an education symposium after her.
Faubus, who remained governor until 1967, said in 1989, "That there were those who disagreed and disagree, that the dream is not yet realized, need not detract from her or her accomplishments."
Mrs. Bates was born in Huttig, Ark. Her mother was raped and killed by white men, Bond said. Her despondent father left the family, and Mrs. Bates was raised by neighbors.
Survivors include four brothers.