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James H. Gilliam Sr., community leader

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Dad has always worked tirelessly for social justice and equity for everyone, but particularly for those whose voices often go unheard. He was taught as a child, by his mother most importantly and his own experiences with segregation, to do something when he saw something wrong. He has spent the better part of his life—and all of mine—doing just that. Although dad worked and served in a variety of public, private and nonprofit agencies (most notably for New Castle County as the director of the Community Development and Housing Department from 1974 until retiring in 1990), his greatest contribution to the community has been serving as its social conscience. He has urged people all the way from the governor to those on the street to consider their role in creating a more just and fair community. He has bridged the divide between people with diverse experiences and backgrounds, as is evident in his creation of the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League in 1999, with its diverse board and funding sources, while at the same time pointing out the many disparities continuing to keep us separate. His skill, character, perseverance, optimism and intelligence in doing so are rarely matched. Dad’s impact on the lives of members of this community is immeasurable. At 91 years of age, people still clamor to sit with him to get his advice on moving issues forward in Delaware. He is steadfast in his belief that we can all be better and do better in our treatment of one another, and he remains steadfast in working with others in finding the means for doing so.

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