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Robert and Marilyn Sutherland -- 2021 History Maker Honorees

During their over five decades in Bloomington-Normal, Bob and Marilyn Sutherland participated in many ways to help make this a better community for everyone, particularly for those who often cannot make their own voices heard. Bob "has been arrested, investigated, and vilified, but he can't imagine having lived any other way," opined James Keeran ("A lifetime of activism ...," Pantagraph, 20 Feb. 2000: 23). Regarding Bob and Marilyn’s activism, Bob said, “We were a team.”

Bob and Marilyn Sutherland were instrumental in bringing about the Community for Social Action, which supported the United Farm Workers grape and lettuce boycotts, opposed the Vietnam War and the U.S. government involvement on behalf of the Sandinistas in the El Salvadoran Civil War. They also played major roles from the very beginning in the Central Illinois Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, the McLean County Jail Review Committee, and the McLean County AIDS Task Force. Their love of the Constitution and their moral code has been the foundation of their many years of being the voice for those who are voiceless regardless of the dangers, persecution, or consequences. Bob and Marilyn generously created an endowment for The Sutherland Fellowship in 2014. Administered through ISU's Department of English, creative writing students receive financial support and Fellows learn about various aspects of publishing.

The Illinois Municipal Human Relations Association formally recognized Bob’s many contributions in 1998 with the Community Service Award. Bob also received the Florence Fifer Bohrer Award in 2017 from the League of Women Voters of McLean County. However, behind every award is his equally involved, supportive, and persistent Marilyn.

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