Jacqueline Hamer Flakes, adopted daughter of the late civil rights and voting rights advocate Fannie Lou Hamer, died March 27, 2023, at the age of 56. Credit: Chromatic Black/Special Mississippi Today

Jacqueline Hamer Flakes, the last living child of civil and voting rights advocate Fannie Lou Hamer, died this week and will be buried April 8 in Ruleville.

Flakes, who died March 27 at the age of 56 in her hometown of Ruleville, had been traveling and speaking about her mother’s legacy. She had just returned from an engagement at a museum in Seattle.

Flakes, who had been battling breast cancer, was admitted to North Sunflower Medical Center on March 24 after complaining of weakness. 

Ruby McWilliams, who helped raise Flakes and her older sister, Lenora, after Hamer’s death, said in a news release that doctors sent her home on hospice and “friends and family were in and out to see her.”

Hamer and her husband Pap adopted Flakes, whom they nicknamed “Cookie”, and her sister Lenora, known as “Nook”, when their mother, Dorothy Jean, died in May 1967 of a cerebral hemorrhage six months after Flakes was born.

The Hamers had also adopted Dorothy Jean, Fannie Lou’s niece, when she was an infant and the then-6-month-old Virgie Lee 10 years later.

Hamer, who worked throughout the Deep South as a field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee to help poor Black Mississippians register to vote, died of hypertension and breast cancer in 1977 and Pap Hamer died in 1992.

Flakes attended Ruleville High School and Mississippi Delta Community College. She worked as a relief dispatcher for the Ruleville Police Department and later the Sunflower County Sheriff’s Department. She moved to Michigan in 1997 where she also worked as a dispatcher. She returned to Ruleville in 2009 and in 2015 went to work at city hall as the water clerk, replacing her sister, Lenora who retired after 26 years. Lenora died in July 2019.

When Virgie Ree died in 2017, Flakes stepped in as spokesperson for her mother’s legacy. In 2021, she was interviewed for the documentary film, “Fannie Lou Hamer’s America”, produced by her cousin and Hamer’s niece, Monica Land. The following year, Flakes published a book about her mother, “Mama Fannie,” by Concierge Publishing Services.

In June, she spoke in Winona, where a historical marker was unveiled at the jail site where Hamer and several others, including two teenagers, were beaten in June 1963.

Flakes has two sons, Shadney and Trenton.

Visitation will be from 4-6 p.m. April 7 at Byers Funeral Home in Ruleville. Services will be at 2:30 p.m. April 8 at New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church with burial at Mount Galilee Cemetery, both in Ruleville.

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