Ala. representative Demetrius Newton passes away - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Ala. representative Demetrius Newton passes away

Ala. Representative Demetrius Newton. Source: Alabama House of Representatives website Ala. Representative Demetrius Newton. Source: Alabama House of Representatives website

Alabama lawmakers have confirmed that state representative Demetrius Newton (D-Birmingham) has died. Lawmakers learned of Newton's death early Wednesday morning.

Newton passed away at his home. His cause of death is not known at this time but Rep. John Rogers, a longtime friend of Newton's, says he had been sick for some time. Rogers says Newton missed much of the last legislative session.

Newton represented the 53rd District, which included part of Jefferson County. He was elected in 1986 and served for 27 years.

He was the first African-American to serve as Speaker Pro-Tem of the Alabama House of Representatives from 1998 until 2010, according to his bio on the state website. Newton was also known for his work during the Civil Rights movement.

Jefferson County lawmakers who served with Newton says he was respected by others, regardless of party or color.

"He was a Civil Rights icon. He worked side by side with Adam Clayton Powell, starting a law firm with U.W. Clemon and Oscar Adams. He represented Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks," Roger said.

"A strong advocate for his position, win or lose. What he brought to the delegation was a sense of history," Rep. Paul DeMarco said.

Newton was so well-respected among his fellow representatives that when Republicans took over the majority, a newly elected Caucus unanimously decided Newton should keep his front row seat in the Chamber, an honor usually reserved for the Members of Leadership, according to Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard.

Hubbard issued the following statement on Wednesday morning after learning of Newton's death:

"Representative Newton was a true gentleman and I considered him to be a great friend for the 15 years that I had the honor of knowing him. Mr. Newton was an intelligent, fair, and kind man as well as a respected and knowledgeable legislator who fought for his district. His 27 years of service to the Alabama Legislature and his incredible impact on the Civil Rights movement will forever be a powerful part of Alabama history," Hubbard said.

Representative Darrio Melton, a Democrat from Selma, also issued a statement in response:

"I am deeply saddened by the passing of a friend and colleague, Representative Demetrius Newton. He dedicated his life to public service and improving the great state of Alabama, and his loss will be felt in both the state House and in my house. Representative Newton achieved so much to pave the way for African-Americans in politics and his legacy will not soon be forgotten."

The House Majority Leader Micky Hammon also offered condolences on Rep. Newton's passing on behalf of the Republican Caucus:

"Whether we are Republicans or Democrats, all of us serving in the House are friends and colleagues, and Demetrius Newton was respected immensely by both sides of the aisle. Debates in the House often have to compete with noise generated by side conversations and members going about their business, but when Demetrius took to the podium, the Chamber would hush. That's evidence of the respect he commanded. On behalf of the House Republican Caucus, we send deepest condolences to his family, but we rest easy in the knowledge that Demetrius led the kind of life that God will reward for eternity."

Chairman of the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus and Rep. Napoleon Bracy (D-Mobile) issued this statement:

"I was broken-hearted to learn this morning of the death of my friend and colleague, Rep. Demetrius Newton. Rep. Newton helped pave the way for African Americans with his role in the Civil Rights Movement and later serving as the first African American Speaker Pro Tem of the Alabama House of Representatives. He was a statesman and an honorable man. I am privileged to have known him and to have served with him in the legislature. I will pray for his family as we all mourn his passing."

Newton's funeral arrangments are as follows:

Funeral service at 11:00 am. – Saturday -  September 14, 2013
First Baptist Church of Fairfield
324 59th Street
Fairfield, Al 35064

Arrington Funeral Home
520 Cotton Ave. S.W.
Birmingham, Al 35211
Viewing hours Friday -  September 13, 2013 1:00 pm to 7:00 pm

Elmwood Cemetery
600 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive
Birmingham, Al

Fairfield Industrial Alumni Building
5908 Avenue D
Fairfield, Al 35064

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