Yorkshire-born campaigner Lord Rix dies aged 92

Lord Rix. Credit: Jim James/PA Wire

Lord Rix. Credit: Jim James/PA Wire

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Lord Rix, the actor and learning disability campaigner, has died aged 92, a spokesman for the charity Mencap said.

Born Brian Norman Rix on 27 January 1924 in Cottingham, Yorkshire, he was the youngest of four children.

He followed his sister Sheila’s passion for the stage and became an actor.

His first career breakthrough came in the play Reluctant Heroes and he went on to meet his future wife Elspet Gray.

Lord Rix, who was awarded a knighthood in 1986 and became a life peer in 1992, was well known in his ‘Whitehall farces’ for the BBC and became a household name.

He was one of the country’s foremost campaigners for people with learning disabilities after his daughter Shelley was born with Down’s syndrome.

He used his fame to raise money for Mencap and he became the charity’s president - a role he occupied until his death.

Jan Tregelles, chief executive of Mencap, said in a statement on the charity’s website: “We are deeply saddened to hear of Lord Brian Rix’s death.

“The thoughts of everyone in the Mencap movement go out to his family at this very difficult time.

“Lord Rix was a beloved colleague and friend to so many people with a learning disability and their families.

“His passion, zeal and humour will be sorely missed. His tireless campaigning has perhaps done more to improve the lives of people with a learning disability than any other.

“When Lord Rix’s daughter, Shelley, was born with a learning disability he and his wife Elspet were told to put her away, and forget about her.

“This started a quest lasting over 60 years to make the world a better place for all those with a learning disability.

“He has played a central role in many of the landmark moments for people with a learning disability in recent decades, working as Secretary General, Chairman and later President of Mencap and also in the House of Lords where he worked tirelessly into his 90s.

“His unique charm, personality and passion have been invaluable in helping Mencap grow into the UK ‘s leading learning disability charity, and with his passing the charity has lost a very dear friend.

“Lord Rix made a real difference but there is still so much more to be done.

“We will not stop until people with a learning disability are valued equally, listened to and fully included in our society. That would be the most fitting tribute that we could pay to such an extraordinary man.”

The Mencap president, who previously served as the charity’s secretary general and chairman and president, had been ill for some time.

He recently wrote to the Speaker of the House of Lords, Baroness D’Souza to appeal for a change in the law to legalise assisted dying so he could “slip away peacefully”.

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