Human Interest Civil Rights Icon Bruce Carver Boynton, Man Who Inspired 'Freedom Rides,' Dies at 83 "He was a hero because he stood 62 years ago and forced history to go in a different direction," former Alabama Sen. Hank Sanders wrote of his friend By Joelle Goldstein Joelle Goldstein Twitter Joelle Goldstein is a TV Staff Editor for PEOPLE Digital. She has been with the brand for five years, beginning her time as a digital news writer, where she covered everything from entertainment news to crime stories and royal tours. Since then, she has worked as a writer-reporter on the Human Interest team and an associate editor on the TV team. In her current role, Joelle oversees all things TV and enjoys being able to say she has to watch The Kardashians, Dancing with the Stars and America's Got Talent for "work". Prior to joining PEOPLE, Joelle was employed at The Hollywood Reporter. She graduated from Ithaca College with a degree in Television-Radio (and an appearance in the NCAA Women's Volleyball Final Four!) People Editorial Guidelines Published on November 25, 2020 12:42 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Bruce Carver Boynton. Photo: Jay Reeves/AP/Shutterstock Bruce Carver Boynton, the man who inspired the 1961 "Freedom Rides," has died. He was 83. The civil rights icon, who was the son of fellow activist Amelia Boynton Robinson, died on Monday, according to a statement issued by his friend and former Alabama state Sen. Hank Sanders. "Bruce Boynton is an unknown hero," Sanders wrote in a Facebook post. "He was a hero because he stood 62 years ago and forced history to go in a different direction." Boynton became a prominent civil rights figure in 1958 after taking a stand against racial segregation at a Virginia bus station. That year, Boynton refused to sit in the "Black diner" of the bus station because it was "unkempt, unclean and unappealing," and instead, insisted on being served in the "White diner ... which was clean, well kept and appealing," Sanders said. Bruce Carver Boynton. Jay Reeves/AP/Shutterstock Civil Rights Leader Rev. C.T. Vivian Dies at 95: 'We've Lost a Founder of Modern America' During a 2018 interview with the Associated Press, Boyton recalled his interaction with a waitress back then, saying, "She left and came back with the manager. The manager poked his finger in my face and said 'move.'" "I knew that I would not move, and I refused to, and that was the case," Boynton added. Due to the laws at that time, Boynton, then a student at Howard University Law School, was arrested, according to Sanders. He contested his conviction and later brought his case, Boynton v. Virginia, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where he was defended by Thurgood Marshall of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Sanders noted. Boynton's actions went on to inspired the "Freedom Rides" of 1961, where activists rode buses through the South to protest segregated bus terminals, the AP reported. Though their actions were peaceful, chaos ensued as many protesters in Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina were arrested or attacked, and one bus was even set on fire, according to the outlet. RELATED VIDEO: Late Civil Rights Icon John Lewis Crosses Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma for Final Time It wasn't until 1964 that then-President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law, ending the Jim Crow-era laws. "He prevailed and changed the law across this country," Sanders wrote in his post, noting that even after Boynton graduated and passed the Alabama Bar Exam, he still faced discrimination in the U.S. "For six years the State of Alabama refused to let him practice law because he had stood for justice and equality in a bus station diner in Virginia," Sanders wrote. In the years following, Boyton went on to work as a civil rights attorney, spending his life fighting against injustices before retiring, the AP reported. "Bruce Boynton was a hero because he paid a price for the rest of his life," Sanders wrote. "[He] was a hero because he helped change this country. I lift our friend Bruce Boynton. May the family and all of us who loved him find peace." To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations: Campaign Zero works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies. ColorofChange.org works to make the government more responsive to racial disparities. National Cares Mentoring Movement provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.