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LOUISVILLE, KY (WDRB) -- Close friends are remembering a civil rights historian and educator.
A day after Dr. J. Blaine Hudson died, those who knew him well say his death will have a huge impact on the Louisville community. Hudson passed away Saturday at the age of 63.
He had recently stepped down as the dean of the college of arts and sciences at the University of Louisville. He also recently co-chaired Mayor Greg Fischer's task force looking to curb violence in west Louisville. According to the university's website, Hudson took a medical leave in August.
During an interview at his home Sunday, Hudson's close friend Mervin Aubespin recalled the years spent alongside Hudson, with whom he co-authored a book.
"Blaine was an intellectual heavyweight and it was always get fun to get together with him to talk about things of great importance to African-Americans in Louisville," said Aubespin.
Hudson, Aubespin and Ken Clay co-authored the award-winning book "Two Centuries of Black Louisville." The book chronicles the struggles and triumphs of African-Americans in Louisville. It's a book that took them five years to write.
"We fed on each other, that was the nice part about it. We never had a disturbing word between the three of us," said Aubespin.
Aubespin, a former Courier-Journal editor, knew his friend had been ill, but Hudson's death Saturday still caught him off guard.
"Yes and I'm a little depressed by it too and that's obvious. Because you never realize your friends who don't complain are that bad off and when he said he needed to take time off... when he said he had to take some time and be away from campus. I never dreamed it was that serious."
He says his friend will be remembered as a mentor to young people at the University of Louisville.
But mostly, he says Hudson will be remembered for his ability to connect people, provide information and help African-Americans better comprehend their history.
"It's a hell of a legacy when you put the spotlight on things that people should know about their community and how they fit in it. and if there's a legacy, he did a Yeoman's job," Aubespin said.
Hudson's obituary in the newspaper says the family will gather to commemorate his life. It does not mention a public service.
Ken Clay, the other co-author of the book with Hudson and Aubespin, told WDRB News by phone: "Hudson's loss is a big loss for the African American community. He is going to be missed."
Saturday evening, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer tweeted that he was saddened by the news of Hudson's death and later released a statement providing sympathies:
"Dr. Hudson was a true public servant who cared deeply about Louisville and its people. He understood the city's history, and he selflessly shared his learnings and insights from both an academic and real-life perspective. Though he grew up in times of racial segregation, his entire life was spent helping bridge racial divides, from his work at the University of Louisville to his Saturday Academy to his book about African-American History in Louisville to his most recent work serving as co-chair of the city's violence prevention work group. He leaves a deep and lasting legacy and our city is grateful for his life," Fischer said in a statement.
In a news release from the Metro Council Sunday, several members of the Louisville Metro Council have offered the following statements on the passing of Dr. Blaine Hudson:
"The University of Louisville has lost a true scholar, devoted teacher and friend. Our community has lost a man who helped many understand who we are through our history. He lived the history he taught and understood so well. We on the Metro Council offer our thoughts and prayers to the Hudson family at this time of remembrance."
Jim King, District 10, President of the Louisville Metro Council
"My prayers go out to the family of Dr. J. Blaine Hudson. Dr. Hudson, and his partner Bani Hines-Hudson, brought Black history in Louisville to the forefront every week as part of the Saturday Academy and my family was blessed to listen to his strong voice and to learn from his vault of knowledge. Dr. Hudson used his influence to impact academia and to impact our community leading research on issues like restoration of civil rights for former felons. He will be deeply missed and may his life serve as a guide to each generation that follows."
Attica Scott, District 1
"Dr. Hudson was a remarkable man. He came to Newburg many times to teach African American history to young and old. He helped all who listened understand the role of local civil rights and the legacy and goals of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He will be missed and my prayers are with his family in this time of mourning."
Barbara Shanklin, District 2
"I am saddened by the loss of Dr. J. Blaine Hudson. He was a dedicated member of this community and will be truly missed. I extend my heartfelt condolences to his family and will keep them in my prayers."
Mary C. Woolridge, District 3
"The City of Louisville is a better place because of Dr. J. Blaine Hudson and his dedication to better human understanding through the study of history. I would like to thank Dr. Hudson's family for sharing him with us and to let them know that our thoughts and prayers are with them at this time."
David Tandy, District 4
"I was fortunate to have known Dr. Blaine Hudson since childhood where his passion for social justice and racial equality was forged as a teenager. As a U of L student he fought for black studies on campus and later taught in and led the Pan African Studies Dept. He was a down-to-earth genius who walked with ease among kings and the common people. He remained committed to social justice throughout his life and unselfishly shared his intimate knowledge of African, African-American, Kentucky and Louisville history. Blaine Hudson shared the importance of the past in such a way that you knew the future of the community was dependent on what actions we take in the present, and that knowledge of self and history would instill self-esteem and pride in our youth. Someone tweeted Saturday night an African proverb, " When an elder dies, it is as if an entire library has burned to the ground," if that is true, then Louisville has lost a main branch of wisdom. Blaine Hudson touched and will be missed by the entire community. "
Cheri Bryant Hamilton, District 5
""Dr. Hudson was a visionary and an intellectual giant in our community who's efforts to find peace, safety and a higher level of discourse will not soon be forgotten. My deepest sympathies are expressed to his family, friends and all who knew him. Our City is better off today because of his dedication and leadership."