The South Carolina man who publicly apologized for years of violent racism, including the beating of a black Freedom Rider who went on to become a Georgia congressman, has died. He was 76.
Judy Wilson says her husband, Elwin, died Thursday at a hospital. He had been suffering from the flu after years of heart and lung problems.
Wilson gained nationwide attention in 2009, when he apologized for a racist past that included beating up Freedom Riders at the Rock Hill bus station in 1961. Among them was Georgia Rep. John Lewis.
"I feel like I did have burden, or whatever you want to call it, on my shoulders," Wilson said during an interview in 2011.
Wilson said he wrestled with what he did to African Americans, in Rock Hill, when they were trying to get a fair shake.
Lewis took a beating from Wilson in the streets on Rock Hill during the first days of the Freedom Rides. Lewis turned the other cheek, Wilson recalled in his past interview.
"Do want to sign a warrant against this man [they asked]?" Wilson recalls. "He said 'no' .He said 'We're traveling through here to get people to love each other'."
Lewis told the Herald of Rock Hill on Saturday that Wilson's story is a powerful one that must not be forgotten.
"I know now, and I should have known then, that it was wrong," Wilson said.
Judy Wilson says her husband seemed at ease about his past when he died.
Copyright 2013 WBTV. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.