Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter is dead at 76

BY Elisabeth Ponsot  April 20, 2014 at 12:20 PM EDT
PERTH, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 17:  (EUROPE AND AUSTRALASIA OUT) Former US boxer Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter, who spent 20 years in jail for three 1966 murders he did not commit poses on February 17, 2010 in Perth, Australia. Carter will launch JusticeWA, an incorporated public benevolent institution to raise funds to provide legal and forensic expertise to those fighting wrongful conviction. (Photo by James Croucher/Newspix/Getty Images)

Former US boxer Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter poses on February 17, 2010 in Perth, Australia. Credit: James Croucher/Newspix/Getty Images

Rubin “Hurricane” Cater, the celebrated boxer whose wrongful murder conviction spurred widespread debate over racial injustice, has died at 76.

The Associated Press, citing John Artis, a longtime friend and caregiver to the former boxer, said Carter died in his sleep on Sunday.

Carter was found guilty of three murders at a tavern in Paterson, N.J. in 1966.

In a 2011 interview with Tavis Smiley on PBS (above), Carter reflected on how he survived the 19 years he spent in prison before he being freed in 1985.

“No matter that they sentenced me to three life terms in prison, I wouldn’t give up,” he said.

“And because I was not guilty, I refused to act like a guilty person. So when I walked into prison, I refused to wear their stripes. I refused to eat their food. I refused to work their jobs and I would have refused to breathe the prison’s air if I could have done so and yet remained alive. So through those 20 years, I had to find a way to get out of those extraordinary situations and it took an extraordinary method in order to do it.”

Carter’s story of wrongful conviction and subsequent incarceration inspired both music and film, including Bob Dylan’s 1975 song “Hurricane,” and a 1999 film starring Denzel Washington.