updated 8/21/2005 5:43:26 PM ET 2005-08-21T21:43:26

The Rev. A. Leon Lowry, a prominent local civil rights leader who once taught Martin Luther King Jr. and led the desegregation of public facilities in Tampa, has died at 92.

Lowry died Saturday of congestive heart failure. He had been admitted to St. Joseph’s Hospital last week, said his wife, Shirley.

Lowry’s association with the civil rights movement dated to the 1940s when he taught theology at Morehouse College and King was one of his students.

In the 1960s, he led peaceful protests at Tampa lunch counters and helped found Tampa’s first biracial bank.

He became president of the Florida NAACP and in 1976 was the first African-American elected to the Hillsborough County School Board, where he served for 16 years. The Florida Bar awarded him a medal of honor for easing racial tensions and promoting social justice.

Until he was hospitalized, Lowry had continued counseling jail inmates, commuting by scooter because hip problems prevented driving.

“That was just his whole life,” his wife said. “He always wanted to help people.”

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