When Ron Kimbrough talked about the crash that killed his mother, his voice was strong, but tears streamed down his face.

"I'm trying to focus on the positive, but I'm angry," he said in an interview at his Ballwin home.

Kimbrough had buried his mother, Ciby Herzfeld Kimbrough, 70, a few days earlier. Three vases of flowers from her wake still sat in the middle of his dining room table.

She was killed Jan. 26, when a GMC Envoy crossed the center line of Clayton Road and collided with her Volvo. The driver of the SUV, George F. Putney, 52, of Ballwin, was charged with leaving the scene of an accident.

"I had to make a cross (for a roadside memorial) for my mother on my 45th birthday, so that's a birthday I won't forget," Kimbrough said.

His mother, an educator and civil rights activist, wouldn't have wanted him to dwell on the negative, though, he said.

"A lot of her friends died fighting for what they believed in," he said. "Instead of focusing on their trials and tribulations, she taught me to focus on the opportunities that came out of it and to do something with them."

Ciby Kimbrough grew up in Tilden, Ala., a small town about 25 miles southwest of Selma. Her family was a blend of many different backgrounds — Irish, French, German, Native American and African-American — and they were close-knit. Kimbrough was named for her grandmother, although the younger Ciby spelled her name with one "b" instead of two, to distinguish herself from her grandmother.

She attended college in Knoxville, Tenn., and in 1963 she picketed the segregated theaters there. Kimbrough, who was 21 then, was arrested with about 50 other activists when they tried to enter one of the white-only theaters.

Her niece, Katherine Herzfeld Vaiente, said Kimbrough was influenced to stand up for equality because of her faith and her family, especially her older brother, the Rev. William Herzfeld.

He was a close associate of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Herzfeld later became the first African-American bishop in the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches.

"She felt strongly that everyone should have equal rights, so she was never afraid to participate," Vaiente said. "She believed that by doing the right thing, right things would come about."

In the spring of 1965, Kimbrough was five months pregnant when she participated in three marches from Selma, including "Bloody Sunday," when protesters were driven back across the Edmund Pettus Bridge by police with tear gas and clubs.

She later walked 53 miles to Montgomery from Selma, with several hundred demonstrators. In a famous photograph of King, Kimbrough can be seen following him and the Rev. Ralph Abernathy across the Pettus Bridge. Her husband, Charles Kimbrough, also was involved in boycotts and sit-ins, and subjected to fire hoses and police attack dogs.

Ron Kimbrough said his parents' generation sacrificed so much that he and his brother had no choice but to succeed. And education was the way to get there.

"She always said, 'If you don't educate yourself, then there's no way for you to help yourself when times get bad, because education is the only thing that can take you out of poverty,' " he said.

Ciby Kimbrough originally planned to be a doctor, but in college she developed a passion for educating young people, her son said. A few years after her parents married, they moved to the St. Louis area and most recently, they lived in Maryland Heights.

She earned a doctorate in psychology, specializing in early childhood development, and worked for several private psychiatric practices. She also taught in St. Louis public schools and the Ferguson-Florissant School District. She later became a psychology professor at Washington University and the University of Phoenix.

Kimbrough traveled to more than 40 countries. After meeting several women in Nigeria who were struggling to help children with developmental disabilities, she helped start an educational center for children there. She was an avid photographer, sang in her church choir and was a southern-style cook. She had an impressive collection of African art.

"But her favorite piece was a painting of all of our hands that said 'We love you Mama Ciby' on it," Ron Kimbrough said. "That's the first thing you saw when you came through her door."

His mom had been visiting his family, her grandchildren, right before she was in the crash. She was making plans with her eldest granddaughter, another Cibby, to travel to Europe this summer.

Town and Country police are still investigating where Putney had been before the crash. He could face more serious charges.

"I don't think I'll ever understand what he was thinking when he did what he did," Ron Kimbrough said.

But he said he's trying to focus on his mother's legacy rather than the way she died.