The courageous Flint, Michigan, councilman Eric Mays is being lauded for his commitment to fighting for justice following the news of his passing. Mays, 65, died of natural causes on Saturday (Feb. 24).

Known for being outspoken with his representation of his constituents, the longtime city official was among the voices advocating for clean drinking water when the city’s water crisis made headlines in 2014. A decade ago, Flint’s water source was switched from Detroit’s system to the city’s river to cut costs. However, the inadequate treatment of contaminated water and lead pipes led to years of residents experiencing illness. The issue was deemed a “result of systemic racism.”

Across social media, an outpouring of condolences and posts reflecting on Mays’ impact can be seen. “To most, he was this huge personality, but to me, he was the only city official to ever support me, come out and volunteer at my events, and always encouraged me. He called me Medium Miss Flint as I grew up. He loved this city more than anyone,” wrote Amariyanna “Little Miss Flint” Copeny. The now-16-year-old activist grew to prominence with the launch of the Clean Water Fund, which provides bottled water and filters to communities faced with toxic water supplies.

Mays was “beloved for his bold and courageous service on behalf of Flint’s First Ward, and his strong presence will be deeply missed,” said the city in a Facebook post announcing his death. In a released statement, Mayor Sheldon Neeley said, “This is a tremendous loss for our community and a shock to all friends and family.”

Actor Hill Harper, who is running for U.S. Senate, wrote that the Michigan native “loved his community and was willing to do anything to support his people… As hard and serious [as] he would fight, he also liked to poke fun, especially at those he knew didn’t have his fight.” Harper also said that the loss was heartbreaking and devastating.

He added, “I think he often joked to lighten the stress of being on the front lines of the fight. When a true fighter passes, the entire community hurts deeply because real fighters can never be replaced. There will never be another Eric Mays. He is singularly unique.”

Mays was re-elected to his third term in 2021. Flags have been ordered to fly half-staff beginning Monday (Feb. 26).