(WBIR) Many are mourning the loss of poet Dr. Maya Angelou. Wednesday, the family of the 86-year-old said Angelou "passed quietly in her home before 8:00 a.m. EST".
Angelou is known as a novelist, civil rights activist, educator, and historian. Among her many accomplishments, Maya Angelou has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, more than 30 honorary degrees, Pulitzer Prize nominations, and three Grammys.
"She was a dynamic individual," said Reverend Harold Middlebrook, former pastor of Knoxville's Canaan Baptist Church.
Middlebrook said he and Angelou spent a little time together during the Civil Right Era when the two worked for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).
"There are a lot of people who are not necessarily out front, but they are the kind of glue that holds things together and she was one of those kinds of people," he said.
Angelou was no stranger to East Tennessee. She's said to have been a personal friend of writer Alex Haley.
At the Langston Hughes Library located on Haley's Farm in Clinton, TN you can find all of Angelou's work. But you'll also find Maya Angelou's name engraved inside one of the library's rooms dedicated to the late author in 1999.
"I was privileged to meet Maya Angelou in 1999, just a gracious lady. That iconic voice. Just a presence. She was very tall, like six feet tall, and it wasn't just her height. it was just the aurora that she brought," said Librarian Theresa Venable.
In 2005, Angelou brought that same aurora to the Tennessee Theatre for an event titled "An Evening with Maya Angelou". Reverend Middlebrook said he briefly saw the world-renowned poet moments before she took the stage.
"I saw her before the performance but I think I was going out of town so I did not stay for her speaking," Middlebrook said.
Reverend Middlebrook said he's sure Angelou did that day what she always did, she gave everyone something to think about.
"Maya Angelou will be around for a long time because there will be a number of people who will be influenced by her work," Middlebrook said.