Cotton died June 10 at the Kendal at Ithaca retirement community in New York, said Jared Harrison, a close friend who was at her bedside. Harrison said she had battled illnesses recently but didn’t specify a cause of death.

Cotton was among a small number of women in leadership positions at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference during the civil rights era, and she led the Atlanta-based civil rights group’s Citizenship Education Program.

“She had a beautiful voice, and when things got tense, Dorothy was the one who would start up a song to relieve the tension,” said Xernona Clayton, who was King’s office manager in Atlanta and organized protest marches and fundraisers.


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