Harry G. Wilkinson

Harry G. Wilkinson was born in Detroit to Henry and Sybil (nee Cole) Wilkinson. His father owned an 

automotive shop and his mother taught piano and voice. Harry attended Redford High where he played varsity football and then spent two years at Michigan State where he was on the college gymnastics team. He spent one semester at the University of Hawaii to get away from the Michigan winter. Living a block from the beach, he surfed, took philosophy classes and came to love water sports. In 1953, he joined the military and was stationed at an Air Force base in England. Upon discharge, he finished his undergraduate studies at the Uni- versity of Michigan and went on to the University of Chicago Law School where he earned his JD in 1961. While in law school, he married Dorothy McQuillan and had three sons with her, Bruce, Stuart and Neal.

After he graduated, Harry moved to Washington, DC with his young family and worked as Counsel to U.S. Senate Subcommittees on Migratory Labor and Constitutional Rights where he was the principal drafter of Federal bail reform and VISTA (domestic peace corps) legislation. He then moved to the Community Conciliation Service at the U.S. Justice Department where he mediated community racial disputes, and later worked as the Congressional Liaison for the Secretary of Labor dealing with such issues as migratory labor, poverty programs and unem- ployment insurance. He was also active in Democratic politics and performed advance work for the election campaign of President Johnson in 1964.

In 1967, Harry joined the Peace Corps as Deputy Director in Ethiopia and was later the Peace Corp Director in Costa Rica. He stayed on in Costa Rica after leaving the Peace Corps to prac- tice international law with a local law firm. In 1977, he returned to government service as a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) serving in Nicaragua, Washington, DC, El Salvador and South Africa. In South Africa he headed the Hu- man Rights Office, supporting local human rights organizations in their struggle against apartheid. A high point was meeting Nelson Mandela.  In 1985 Harry married Cecily Mango who also worked for USAID and they had a son, Henry. After retiring from the government, Harry worked for the South Africa Lawyers for Human Rights and later as a consultant on human rights and democracy-promotion for USAID in In- donesia and Jordan where his wife was stationed.

During retirement in Greenville, SC, Harry served on the Board of Directors of the South Caroli- na ACLU continuing his life-long passion to support human and civil rights. He also supported local performing arts groups, attended a variety of cultural events and participated in a range of sports. He was an avid reader of the New York Times and loved classical music. He told won- derful stories about his youth and time overseas and had a repertory of jokes he liked to tell. He was a talented handyman who undertook major renovations of the various houses he lived in and had a serial collection of classic BMWs and Mercedes. He and his family spent their summers in Hampstead, NH where they maintained a lakeside cottage and they loved swim- ming and kayaking together.

Harry died at home of natural causes at the age of 87. He is survived by Cecily Mango, his wife of 35 years, four sons, Bruce, Stuart, Neal and Henry and five grandchildren.  In lieu of flowers, contributions may be sent to the ACLU of South Carolina or other human or civil rights organizations of your choice.

Comments are closed.