Tennessee civil rights lawyer George Barrett, known for desegregation case, dies at 86

A longtime Tennessee civil rights lawyer known for his involvement in a case that ultimately desegregated the state's public colleges and universities has died.

Fellow law partners confirmed that George Barrett died Tuesday at a hospital. He was 86.

In a career that spanned more than 50 years, Barrett not only handled numerous civil rights cases, he also represented corporate whistleblowers and tackled securities fraud.

He is perhaps best known as the attorney for a young Tennessee State University instructor named Rita Geier, who filed a lawsuit in 1968 accusing the state of operating a dual system of higher education for minorities. The case dragged on for 38 years.

Douglas Johnston Jr. was a founding partner alongside Barrett at the firm Barrett Johnston Martin & Garrison.

Johnston said his colleague was a giant of the civil rights movement.