updated 8/15/2006 10:15:22 PM ET 2006-08-16T02:15:22

Victoria Gray Adams, who helped open Freedom Schools that pushed for civil rights in Mississippi in 1964 and became a founding member of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, died Saturday at her home in Petersburg, Va. She was 73.

Adams was a Hattiesburg, Miss. native. Along with Fannie Lou Hamer and others, she attempted to unseat the all-white Mississippi Democratic Party delegation during the 1964 Democratic National Convention at Atlantic City, N.J.

While they did not replace the all-white group, the Freedom Democrats brought national attention to Mississippi's racial and political divisions.

"We will miss her wisdom, her caring spirit and her courage that sparked the change in civil and human rights in our country," said Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree, who's now the first black mayor of the majority-white south Mississippi city.

In 2004, Adams and others who formed the party were recognized at the Democratic convention in Boston for their trailblazing role.

During a celebration two years ago for Adams, a marker was unveiled identifying St. John United Methodist Church as the birthplace of the civil rights movement in Hattiesburg and Forrest County. The celebration drew dozens of out-of-town visitors including Stan Zibulsky of New York, who taught at St. John during summer 1964.

"Victoria was one of the keys to the whole movement here," Zibulsky said. "Her work as a founding member of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party led to the national publicity that helped change everything."

A remembrance for Adams is planned in Baltimore on Friday and Saturday.

Memorial services are planned on Aug. 26 in Petersburg, Va., and Sept. 9 at St. John United Methodist Church in Hattiesburg, Miss.

Friends said Adams had cancer and had been ill for some time.

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