FILE - Linda Brown Smith, date and location unknown. Smith was a third grader when her father started a class-action suit in 1951 of the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, which led to the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 landmark decision again
FILE - Linda Brown Smith, date and location unknown. Smith was a third grader when her father started a class-action suit in 1951 of the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, which led to the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 landmark decision again

Linda Brown, who as a young girl was at the center of the lawsuit that ended racial segregation in American schools, has died.

Brown died Sunday in Topeka, Kansas. She was 76.

Linda Brown Smith, 9, is shown in this 1952 photo.
Linda Brown Smith, 9, is shown in this 1952 photo.

Brown was 9 years old when her father, the Rev. Oliver Brown, sued the Topeka school board to allow his daughter to attend an all-white elementary school close to her home.

Four similar cases were combined with Brown's complaint and presented to the U.S. Supreme Court as Brown v. The Board of Education.

In May 1954, the nation's highest court unanimously ruled that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal" making it unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment that says no citizen can be denied equal protection under the law.

"In the field of public education, the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place," Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote.

Future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall argued the case before the court for the plaintiffs.

Kansas Governor Jeff Coyler on Monday tweeted, "64 years ago a young girl from Topeka brought a case that ended segregation in public schools in America. Linda Brown's life reminds us that sometimes the most unlikely people can have an incredible impact and that by serving our community we can truly change the world."

"We are to be grateful for the family that stood up for what is right," said Democratic state Rep. Annie Kuether of Topeka. "That made a difference to the rest of the world."