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ROCK HILL, S.C. -- The South Carolina man who publicly apologized for years of violent racism, including the beating of a black Freedom Rider who went on to become a Georgia congressman, has died. He was 76.

PHOTOS | Notable deaths in 2013

Judy Wilson says her husband, Elwin, died Thursday at a hospital. He had been suffering from the flu after years of heart and lung problems.

Wilson gained nationwide attention in 2009, when he apologized for a racist past that included beating up Freedom Riders at the Rock Hill bus station in 1961. Among them was Georgia Rep. John Lewis.

Lewis saidthat Wilson's story is a powerful one that must not be forgotten.

Judy Wilson says her husband seemed at ease about his past when he died.