Demetrius Newton, a civil rights attorney who represented icons like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. before becoming the first Black person to serve as speaker pro tem of the Alabama House, has died. He was 85.

Rep. John Rogers of Birmingham, a longtime friend of Newton, says he was notified by the lawmaker’s family that Newton died Wednesday morning after a long illness. Gov. Robert Bentley served for eight years with Newton in the Alabama House. “He was a fine gentleman, and we had a strong mutual respect for each other. He will be greatly missed, not only by his own constituents – but also by the entire state of Alabama,”

Newton was former city attorney for Birmingham and had served in the Legislature since 1986. He was speaker pro tem from 1998 until 2010.