Del. Activist, Soldier, and Mentor Dies at 95 - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Del. Activist, Soldier, and Mentor Dies at 95

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U.S. Sen. Chris Coons posted this photo of Jim Gilliam, Sr. on his twitter page Thursday afternoon, extending his condolences to who he called "a good friend and advisor." (Photo: Sen. Chris Coons/Twitter) U.S. Sen. Chris Coons posted this photo of Jim Gilliam, Sr. on his twitter page Thursday afternoon, extending his condolences to who he called "a good friend and advisor." (Photo: Sen. Chris Coons/Twitter)

WILMINGTON, Del. - James H. Gilliam Sr., a civil rights leaders in the Wilmington, Del. area, decorated soldier, and a mentor to many in the First State, died early Thursday, according to the governor's office. He was 95.

Family friends of Gilliam said Gilliam died at the Cokesbury Village retirement community, where he had lived for the last several years. No word as of Thursday afternoon, of funeral arrangements. Gilliam is survived by his daughter, Patrice Gilliam-Johnson, three grandchildren, and several great-grandchildren.

Del. Governor Jack Markell extended his deepest sympathies Thursday. 

"Jim led a tremendous life of service and his advocacy in our community has positively impacted so many Delawareans," the governor said. "When I had the opportunity to serve as chair of the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League, I saw, firsthand, the depth of his commitment and the magnitude of his reach. His focus on mentorship touched all who worked with him, and his leadership in the community allowed him to successfully champion important causes, like fair housing opportunities."

Delaware's U.S. Senator Chris Coons also extended his condolences releasing a statement Thursday afternoon. Known to many as 'Mr. G', Sen. Coons said Gilliam was a Delaware civil rights icon, a philanthropist, a veteran of both World War II and the Korean War, and what the senator called "a pillar of our state."

"What I'll always remember about Mr. G was his unyielding passion for making our community a better place," Sen. Coons said in a statement. "I will greatly miss the many conversations we shared together, his wise counsel and encouragement, and his willingness to challenge me - and everyone else - to do better."

Delaware's U.S. Senator Tom Carper remembered Gilliam fondly as one of his first mentors when he came to Delaware and ran for office. He added that Gilliam's son, Jim Jr., was one of Carper's most trusted advisors and one of his closest friends. Jim Jr., preceded Gilliam in death, and so did Gilliam's wife Louise Hayley Gilliam.

"A basic, but not so easy rule that I try to live by, is 'do what's right,' and that is what Jim instilled in everyone he counseled," Sen. Carper said in a statement Thursday. "He learned from his experiences with segregation and devoted his life to truly making a difference in uniting Delaware - whether it was through his work for social justice, taking the role as peacemaker during the riots in the 60s, creating the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League in the 90s, or in his work both locally and nationally to promote safe housing." The senator added that Delaware is a better place because Jim was in it.

Delaware's Congressman, Rep. John Carney remembered Gilliam as one whose advice and counsel he respected and sought. In a statement, Congressman Carney said Gilliam was "blunt and to the point, and never minced words or pulled punches when giving you his opinion." He added that Gilliam was one of the state's most prominent leaders who fought tirelessly for social justice. "Delaware, and our nation as a whole, is unquestionably better because of the work that Mr. Gilliam devoted himself to throughout his life. He gave voice to the voiceless and created opportunities for generations of Delawareans to come."

"Jim was a hero," Gov. Markell said, "Not just because of his actions during times of war, but because of his tireless efforts at home, in his community. He earned the respect of everyone he met through his honesty, humility and focus on improving the lives of others. His legacy is one of service, but also of grit, self-sacrifice and an unending determination to seek equality and justice for all. He will be truly missed."  

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