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Last Updated: Monday, 21 November 2005, 19:07 GMT
Funeral held for Gypsy activist
Charles Smith's funeral
Charles Smith's funeral was held at St James Church, Hadleigh
Mourners have been paying their final respects to a man who fought for 30 years for equality for the Gypsy and traveller communities.

Charles Smith, 49, chaired the Gypsy Council for the past 14 years and was also the first Gypsy commissioner for the Commission for Racial Equality.

Mr Smith previously spent eight years as a Labour councillor in Castle Point and was mayor of the borough in 2003.

His friends said he would be impossible to replace.

Gypsy hero

"He was a hero of the Gypsy people. He was a bridge between Gypsy people and non-gypsy people," said Ian Marshall, of the Gypsy Council.

The chairman of the Council for Racial Equality, Trevor Phillips said: "For probably two or three generations Gypsies have been among the most reviled and ignored and neglected people in our country. Charles Smith was someone who stood up for his people."

Mr Smith, who was born in Rochford, Essex and grew up with the Romany community, had suffered from cancer for 10 years. He died on 7 November.

The funeral was held at St James Church, Castle Point, Hadleigh, Essex.

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