JACKSON, Miss. – Keith Tonkel, one of 28 white United Methodist ministers who signed a statement condemning segregation and racism in the Deep South in 1963, has died.
Wells United Methodist Church, where he had been pastor since 1969, announced that Tonkel died Wednesday in Jackson, where he had been hospitalized for pneumonia and blood clots in his lungs. He was 81.
Tonkel was born in New Orleans and grew up there and in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.
The "Born of Conviction" statement against racism appeared in a Mississippi Methodist publication in January 1963, near the height of white resistance to the civil rights movement.
In 2005, Tonkel told The Associated Press that he committed to stay and work in Mississippi once he signed the statement, despite backlash. Many other signers left Mississippi.