Irene Morgan Kirkaldy, whose defiance of white supremacy while traveling through the Upper South in the summer of 1944 led to a Supreme Court decision outlawing segregated seating on interstate bus lines, died Friday in Hayes, Va. She was 90.
The cause was complications of Alzheimerâ€™s disease, said her granddaughter Janine Bacquie.
Irene Morganâ€™s fight against segregation took place a decade before the modern civil rights movement changed America. Taken up by the N.A.A.C.P. and argued before the Supreme Court by Thurgood Marshall, later the courtâ€™s first black justice, it proved a forerunner to Rosa Parksâ€™s storied refusal to yield her seat on a city bus in Montgomery, Ala.
Mrs. Morgan, a worker in a plant that made World War II bombers and the mother of two small children, was returning to her home in Baltimore aboard a Greyhound bus in July 1944 after a visit to her mother in Gloucester County, Va.
When the bus grew crowded, the driver told her to give her seat to a white person. Mrs. Morgan refused, and when a sheriffâ€™s deputy tried to take her off the bus in Saluda, Va., she resisted.
â€œHe put his hand on me to arrest me, so I took my foot and kicked him,â€ she recalled in â€œYou Donâ€™t Have to Ride Jim Crow!â€ a 1995 public television documentary. â€œHe was blue and purple and turned all colors. I started to bite him, but he looked dirty, so I couldnâ€™t bite him. So all I could do was claw and tear his clothes.â€
Mrs. Morgan was arrested and pleaded guilty the next October to resisting arrest, paying a $100 fine. But she refused to pay a $10 fine for violating a Virginia law requiring segregated seating in public transportation.
Irene Morgan’s Wikipedia entry.