Autopsy: Death of ex-state NAACP president ruled a suicide

FILE - The Rev. T. Anthony Spearman, then-president of the North Carolina NAACP, crumples up a mailer which tells voters that IDs are needed in the upcoming 2020 election during a news conference outside the Legislative Building in Raleigh, N.C., on Dec. 27, 2019. The civil rights advocate and former president of the North Carolina branch of the NAACP died by suicide after being found in his Greensboro home with a self-inflicted gunshot wound last summer, according to an autopsy released Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023. (Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer via AP, File)

A civil rights advocate and former president of the North Carolina branch of the NAACP died by suicide in his Greensboro home last summer, according to an autopsy report released Tuesday.

The Rev. T. Anthony Spearman, 71, who also served as president of the N.C. Council of Churches, was found on a basement couch on July 19, 2022, according to a report by the North Carolina Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

The report stated that family had discovered Spearman while conducting a welfare check.

Spearman was “last seen alive the night before on a Zoom meeting and reported to be in good spirits during the meeting,” the report stated.


EDITOR’S NOTE — This story includes discussion of suicide. If you or someone you know needs help, please dial 988 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.


Spearman’s death had drawn widespread attention, with his work as an activist being praised by the likes of Bishop William J. Barber, who preceded Spearman as the state’s NAACP president. But few details about Spearman’s death had been released until Tuesday, nearly seven months after his passing. The autopsy states that Spearman died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

A 911 call that was placed about a week before Spearman’s death indicated an armed robbery took place at his house.

Spearman alleged that a man asked for $2,000, which Spearman said he didn’t have, according to audio from a 911 call on July 13 and a magistrate’s order. The man is alleged to have taken Spearman’s cellphone and tried to use an app to transfer money to his account.

Spearman said the man pulled a gun and when Spearman grabbed it, a shot was fired. Spearman said he wasn’t hurt.

Records also show that the man hit Spearman with the gun before he fled with his cellphone, according to a magistrate’s order. The man was arrested and charged the same day with robbery with a dangerous weapon and assault with intent to kill. He was later released on a $15,000 bond.

That incident was acknowledged in the investigative report released Tuesday with Spearman’s autopsy.

Spearman was elected North Carolina NAACP president in 2017 and served one four-year term.

Spearman’s family issued a statement following his death last year, calling him “a man of strong conviction who loved his family with every ounce of his being.”

Barber, who is now president of the national, not-for-profit organization Repairers of the Breach, said last year that he had “lost a true brother in the struggle.”

“We have lost a scholar, a preacher, a voting rights defender, an advocate for prison reform and for the wrongfully accused and a stalwart soldier in the cause of love and justice for all humankind,” Barber said. “This great man’s efforts and commitment should be cherished.”