John Gilman: Milwaukee’s ‘Footsoldier for Peace’
Gilman’s progressive beliefs compelled him to action early in life. By the time he reached high school, he was selling newspapers for a Communist weekly and leading his classmates in a strike demanding a new school building. Despite some government concerns about his allegiance, Gilman was drafted into World War II and spent nine months on the front line proudly fighting for his country and earning multiple medals for his service.
Once Gilman returned from the war and settled in Milwaukee, he quickly became a leader in the city and unwaveringly proclaimed his liberal opinions. His leadership earned him positions as director of the Wisconsin Civil Rights Congress, leader of the local Anti-Defamation League and head of the Milwaukee chapter of the People’s Coalition for Peace and Justice. Similarly, he was an active member in other organizations that worked to exculpate the unjustly persecuted.
His views and actions were not without consequence, however; Gilman was twice called before the House Un-American Activities Committee, was harassed by the FBI and saw his business vandalized on more than one occasion.
Despite these obstacles, to this day Gilman remains a lively and compelling peace activist. He will discuss his book Footsoldier for Peace and Justice on Sunday, Feb. 21, from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Quaker Meeting House, located at 3224 Gordon Place in Milwaukee.