George Haley, brother of author Alex Haley, friend of Martin Luther King Jr. and one of the first African-Americans elected to the Kansas Senate, died Wednesday at his home in Silver Spring, Md. He was 89.
Haley was elected to the Senate in 1964 as a Republican representing Kansas City, Kan., and served one term. His son, David Haley, currently represents Kansas City, Kan., as a Democrat.
Haley was close to King and was with him at an appearance at Kansas State University in January 1968. He returned to Kansas State in 2011 to hear a rediscovered recording of King’s remarks that day. Haley’s name was among those found written on a paper in King’s clothes after he was assassinated.
Haley attended Morehouse College in Atlanta with King, graduating in 1949. He went on to earn a law degree from the University of Arkansas in 1952, one of just two blacks at the school. According to The History Makers, an African-American history collection, Haley endured overt racism but was a top scholar and wrote for the law review.
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He joined the law firm of Stevens Jackson in Kansas City, Kan., which provided assistance on the desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education.
Haley ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1966 and later joined a law firm in Washington, D.C., before establishing his own practice in 1981.
Haley served under six presidents, including as chairman of the Postal Rate Commission under President George H.W. Bush and as U.S. ambassador to Gambia from 1998 to 2001 under President Bill Clinton. The ambassadorship was poignant because Alex Haley had traced the family’s history to Gambia for the book “Roots.”
“He had quite a full life,” David Haley said Friday. “Going through some of his papers and going over some of the accolades, it’s a remarkable story that George Haley put into just shy of 90 years.”
George Williford Boyce Haley was born in Henning, Tenn., and grew up in Pine Bluff, Ark. Both his parents were university professors. As a child, he met George Washington Carver and singer Marian Anderson.
He leaves his wife, Doris Haley; his son; and his daughter, Anne Haley-Brown. A service will be next Friday in Washington. A service in the Kansas City area also is planned.