Friends remember the life of Linda Brown

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Linda Brown of Brown v. Board of Education, died Sunday at the age of 75.

Her walk to the all-black Monroe School in the early 1950s sparked a lawsuit the changed history.

“When school started my friends would in fact take their books and walk four blocks to the all-white school and I would have to be bused clear across town and I just didn't understand that,” Brown told 13 NEWS in 1994. “I only knew that I wanted to go with the children that I played with on a daily basis."

Chief of Interpretation, Education and Cultural Resources at the Brown v. Board of Education Historic Site, Enimini Ekong, says the case was big task for the young girl.

"You don't wake up as a young person and say I'm going to change the world but for all she knew she was groomed for it,” Ekong said.

Her father, Reverend Oliver Brown, was among 13 plaintiffs in the Brown v. Board of Education case. The landmark Supreme Court decision eventually led to the desegregation of schools.

Linda was the movement’s fearless face.

"She was so photogenic and touched so many people through the photographs of her standing in front of the school,” Brown v. Board Historic Site Superintendent, Sherda Williams said.

But behind closed doors Linda shied away from the spotlight.

"It was very difficult for her as a young person to be thrown in the spotlight because she was and wanted to be a quiet person,” said friend Carolyn Campbell. “But she grew into that responsibility."

Friends remember a reserved, piano-playing poet.

"Anyone that knew Linda loved her because she was just a kind, meek type of person,” Campbell said.

The child of another plaintiff, Victoria Lawton-Benson often traveled with Linda.

"She was impeccably dressed,” said Lawton-Benson. “Her hair was never out of place and her finger nails were to die for."

She watched Linda fight for future generations.

"She believed in building legacy and doing things peacefully,” said Lawton-Benson. “Using a pen and your voice and stop this violence."

Now, that legacy lives on in more than just pictures.

"If not for Brown there wouldn't be the talks that we have about gender equality, there wouldn't be the talks about being ADA accessible,” said Ekong. “When you see how inclusive we're becoming as a society, all of that was really the snowball effect that occurred in 1954 and went forth."

Correction: an earlier version of this story said she died at age 76. It has been corrected to 75.