willis edwards*It’s a sad day in black Hollywood.

Willis Edwards, longtime president of the Beverly Hills/Hollywood branch of the NAACP, has passed away at the age of 66.

During his tenure at the NAACP, Edwards was instrumental in launching the NAACP Image Awards on national TV. Later, as the vice president of development and planning for the Rosa & Raymond Parks Institute, Edwards also led the campaign to get Rosa Parks on a U.S. postage stamp in 2006.

Edwards, who was HIV-positive, was also a strong advocate for AIDS-related issues.

“He was never ashamed of his HIV-positive status and proudly proclaimed, ‘I fought AIDS to a standstill,'” said CNN assignment editor Greg Morrison. “His passion was making sure the African-American community addressed the issue of AIDS education without flinching.”

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Word initially spread of his death via Facebook and other social media vehicles. An email sent to friends and associates of Edwards by Jackie Hawthorne also helped spread the word:

Dear Friends and Family of the Dearly Departed Willis Edwards,

He fought the good fight.  He finished the course. He kept the faith.  At 4:40p.m. on Friday, the 13th of July 2012, my “bestest friend in the whole wide world,” Willis Franklin Earl Edwards succumbed to cancer and departed this existence for his heavenly residence. 

He left on the wings of angels and arrived at the Pearly Gates in God’s own time.

Final arrangements are pending and will be announced over the next few days.  Thank you for the outpouring of love shown to Willis while he was here with us.

Read/learn more about the death of Willis Edwards at CNN.