Editorial board: We must continue Marget Hamilton's fight against discrimination

  • Marget Hamilton, then manager of the College of DuPage Older Adult Institute, posed in her office in Glen Ellyn in 2007. She died last month at 104.

    Marget Hamilton, then manager of the College of DuPage Older Adult Institute, posed in her office in Glen Ellyn in 2007. She died last month at 104. Daily Herald file photo, 2007

 
Posted12/11/2019 5:03 PM

A recent obituary of Wheaton's first female mayor, Marget "Margy" Hamilton, was filled with the kind of tributes you'd expect for a woman who served her community and lived to be 104.

In the obituary by our Katlyn Smith, Hamilton's son described his mom as a civic leader who showed no fear despite threats on her life.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

A friend, meanwhile, called Hamilton, who died Nov. 22, "straightforward" and a "class act."

But those words just begin to tell the story of a woman who inspired us with her willingness to stand up for what's right -- and made the suburbs a better place because of it.

When, during World War II, Hamilton found out that the Barrington Park District would not allow Japanese American children to use the local swimming pool, she contacted a few of her League of Women Voters friends and organized a picket that led to a change in policy.

When she and her husband moved to Wheaton in 1950 and discovered that the deed to their new home stipulated that they could not sell to Jews or people of color, she hired an attorney to change it.

And when she was a councilwoman in the 1960s, she worked with the NAACP to make sure no other Wheaton homeowner had to do the same.

Two years before she became mayor, Hamilton introduced a comprehensive fair housing ordinance prohibiting racial discrimination in home purchases -- the first of its kind in Illinois.

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For that, Hamilton faced death threats and the placement of a burning cross on her front yard. But she continued to speak out about fair housing in communities across the state.

"If you are afraid," she said in a 2010 interview, "you will never accomplish anything."

Reading of her battles and her victories, we're struck by how much has changed over the years. And we have many people, including Hamilton, to thank for that.

But as we pause to consider her contributions and the strides that have been made, we remain aware that much more is needed -- and that the discrimination Hamilton fought is still very much with us decades later.

In late October, a multiracial group of 18 was asked to move at Naperville's Buffalo Wild Wings because staffers said two white customers did not want to sit by them. And just last month, a white 14-year-old Naperville Central High School student -- who now is facing hate crime charges -- posted a picture on Craigslist that showed a black student and said "Slave for Sale (NAPERVILLE)."

Both incidents serve as sobering reminders that the work Margy Hamilton and so many others did is far from complete: The battle against bigotry must continue.

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