Theodore Gaffney, who photographed the Freedom Riders as they protested segregation, dies of Covid-19 complications

Theodore Gaffney accompanied the original Freedom Riders in 1961 as they boarded buses to challenge segregation in the Deep South.

(CNN)In his 92 years, Theodore Gaffney witnessed some of the most consequential moments in history.

He served in the US Army during World War II. One of the first black photographers in the White House, he took photos of US Presidents Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, as well as Queen Elizabeth II.
But he was perhaps best known for an assignment he undertook for Jet Magazine in 1961: documenting the Freedom Riders as they journeyed to the Deep South to challenge racial segregation.
On Easter Sunday, the legendary photographer died of complications from Covid-19, his family confirmed to CNN. News of his death was first reported by The Washington Post.
    "We kept saying that he survived World War II, survived the struggle of civil rights, he survived a heart attack," his wife Maria Santos-Gaffney said. "We were praying that he would survive this too, but his body could not handle the severity of the virus infection."

    He showed the world the Freedom Rides

    In the spring of 1961, then 33-year-old Gaffney was tasked with accompanying journalist Simeon Booker on the first Freedom Rides, in which black and white civil rights activists boarded buses to cities in the Deep South to protest segregated buses and stations.
    "My job on the Freedom Ride was to document what happened when blacks and whites sit together on the bus in the front, go to the counters in the bus terminals, drink out of the black or white fountain, go to the ... 'colored' restrooms and water fountains and see what happened when they used those facilities," Gaffney said in an interview for the Freedom Riders Interview Collection, footage of which was used in the PBS documentary "Freedom Riders."