Windsor MP and activist Howard McCurdy remembered as a man who 'didn't back down'

Howard McCurdy was the first black member of Parliament for the New Democratic Party and a well-known challenger of racism. McCurdy died Tuesday. He was 85.

Scientist and activist was designated a member of the Order of Canada in 2012

Howard McCurdy, right, is shown in a photo on the Facebook page of his daughter Leslie McCurdy, left. The well-known activist and Windsor MP died on Feb. 20 at age 85. (Leslie McCurdy/Facebook)

Howard McCurdy is being remembered as a man who never backed down from anything.

The civil rights activist was the second black member of Parliament in Canada —  the first for the New Democratic Party — and the first tenured black professor in Canadian history. McCurdy died Tuesday at the age of 85.

"I think Howard will be remembered as a feisty character who wouldn't back down from anybody and would take on the establishment if he thought there was an injustice taking place," said Windsor-Tecumseh MPP Percy Hatfield, who was working as a city hall reporter when McCurdy ran for city council in 1979.

Howard McCurdy's daughters, colleagues and friends remember his legacy:

Here's a look at the life of Howard McCurdy. 1:51

Hatfield asked the Ontario Legislature to hold a moment of silence for McCurdy during question period at Queen's Park on Wednesday.

"He stood as a strong leader for equality and equity and never backed down from that. He knew racism first-hand and fought it every step of the way," Hatfield added.

Howard McCurdy talks minorities in politics in 2014:

Howard McCurdy talks about minorities in politics 1:07

McCurdy was also a scientist and civil rights activist. He also formed the Guardian Club to fight racial discrimination in Windsor and co-founded and chaired the National Black Coalition of Canada.

He moved forward the position of the black community in Canada quite significantly over his lifetime.-Joe Comartin, former Windsor MP 

He was named to the Order of Ontario and designated a member of the Order of Canada in 2012.

In a Facebook post, McCurdy's grandson Courtlin Ducre described his grandfather as "a true example of black excellence who always proved that a life of hard work could lead to the highest echelon of success."

Former MP Joe Comartin knew McCurdy well and said he will be remembered as a gifted speaker, who was voted the best dressed parliamentarian and who was known for being a tireless activist.

"He moved forward the position of the black community in Canada quite significantly over his lifetime," Comartin said.