Nashville, TN (TN Tribune)-Civil Rights leader and former Metro Councilman Kwame Leo Lillard died Sunday at the age of 81.

Nashville civil rights leader for most of his life, Lillard experienced beatings, cigarette burns, curses and racial epithets during the 1960s sit-ins he helped organize.

Sen. Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville, said she was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of her friend Lillard.

“A street fighter for justice and the founder of the African Street Festival, Lillard fought tirelessly for the causes of justice and equality in Nashville,” Gilmore said. “It was an honor and a privilege to work with him over the years to stand up for what is right for this community. Our city is a better place as result of his advocacy and leadership. With his passing, we must all remain dedicated to carrying on the work of his life: of confronting injustice everywhere it exists. I join in sending my deepest sympathies to his family.”

The African American Cultural Alliance Nashville posted a tribute to Lillard on Facebook.

“It is with profound sadness and heavy hearts that we share with you the news that Kwame Lillard Freedom Rider and Civil Rights Activist, a cherished man passed away this evening. Please continue to pray for his family and so many of us who’s hearts are truly broken. Remembering Baba, a wonderful and gentle soul who will forever remain in our hearts. ”

Nashville City Councilwoman Zulfat Suara called Lillard’s passing “a huge loss to Nashville.”

“2020 claimed another giant,” Suara said in a post to her Facebook page. “For such an icon, he was always accessible. Sharing his time and wisdom. Rest in Power brother Kwame. Prayers to his family and friends.”

This is a developing story. The Tennessee Tribune will update this story as more details become available.