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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Georgia Ayers, a well-known activist in Miami’s African-American community has passed away.

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Ayers, who was born and raised in Miami, died in her sleep Tuesday morning. She was 86.

It was a peaceful end for the iconic community activist who spent so much of her life in the midst of violence and chaos.

Her great granddaughter found her when she went to check on her Tuesday morning.

Whether it was the riots that saw Miami burn through the eighties, or the gun violence that has torn her community apart in more recent years, Ayers was always there trying to make a difference.

Ayers was the founder and executive director of the Alternative Programs Inc., a nonprofit agency designed to help first-time criminal defendants find jobs and steer them away from a life of crime.

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Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez released this statement on Tuesday, “I join residents of Miami-Dade County in mourning the death of Georgia Ayers. Mrs. Ayers was one of Miami’s most influential civil rights activists who worked tirelessly to guide troubled young people away from the criminal justice system and encouraged them to lead productive lives. Her work as the founder of the Alternative Programs will always be remembered as well as her contributions to Miami-Dade County’s history. My deepest condolences go out to her family and friends.”

Longtime friend County Commissioner Barbara Jordan noted, “Georgia Jones Ayers was the true definition of courage and commitment. She worked tirelessly on behalf of those less fortunate. She reached out her hand to young people who found themselves a part of the criminal justice system, but wanted to turn their lives around. Georgia quickly gained a reputation for giving young men and women a second chance in life.”

Commissioner Audrey Edmonson also released a statement in response to Ayers death, “My deepest sympathy goes out to the family and many friends of Georgia Ayers, a pioneer, fighter and stalwart supporter of Miami-Dade County’s most precious resource, our youth.  We mourn her passing but are grateful that she, through the Alternative Programs and her personal intervention in the lives of troubled youths, made an effort, day in and day out, to help our children find the right path.  We lost a tremendous contributor to the wellbeing of our community’s and this nation’s future.”

Chairman Jean Monestime, following the news of Ayers’ death, released this statement: “On behalf of the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners, we wish to express our sorrow at the news of the death of beloved District 2 resident and longtime Community Activist Georgia Jones Ayers. Ms. Ayers will always be remembered for founding the Alternatives Program, which helps first-time offenders stay out of prison and offers post-release job placement so that they can have a second chance at life. The program, hailed as a model, has impacted hundreds of lives throughout Miami-Dade County and allowed many of them to become productive citizens of our community. To her family, we pray the love of God enfolds you during your time of grief with the knowledge that she will now rest in eternal life and her legacy on earth will live on.”

Ayers had four children, more than half a dozen grandchildren, and 20 great grandchildren.

Services are pending.

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