James Farmer (January 12, 1920 – July 9, 1999): In 1942 Farmer founded the Congress of Racial Equality or CORE, a pacifist organization dedicated to achieving racial harmony and equality through nonviolence, and stayed active in the Civil Rights Movement through the 1950s and 1960s. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998, shortly before his death in 1999.
In James Farmer's autobiography, Lay Bare the Heart, he identified the term "Big Six" as having originated with the founding of the Council for United Civil Rights Leadership. Farmer did not include A. Philip Randolph in his listing of the "Big Six", instead listing Dorothy Height, president of the National Council of Negro Women as the sixth member of the group. Farmer also noted that the press often referred to the group as the "Big Four", excluding Height and John Lewis. Farmer attributed their omission to sexism and age bias, respectively.
Patrick Henry Bass, journalist and historian of the March on Washington, described the rise of these leaders to celebrity: "Increasingly, these six powerful men lived in two worlds: the political and the personal, one white, in which they were still strangers but becoming increasingly familiar with its insider/outsider rules; the other, black, where they were treated as extended members of the family."
Black nationalist and human rights activist Malcolm X said: "...the Negro civil rights leaders have now been permanently named the Big Six (because of their participation in the Big Fix?)".