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Glendora Putnam

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Glendora Putnam
Born in Lugoff, South Carolina on July 25, 1923, to the late Simon and Katherine McIlwain, Glendora McIlwain Putnam departed this life on June 5, 2016. Her life encompassed a fervent dedication to beliefs and causes related to civil rights, women, and the lives of African-Americans.

Born in Lugoff, South Carolina on July 25, 1923, to the late Simon and Katherine McIlwain, Glendora McIlwain Putnam departed this life on June 5, 2016. Her life encompassed a fervent dedication to beliefs and causes related to civil rights, women, and the lives of African-Americans.

Growing up, she attended Methuen public schools after her parents moved to Massachusetts to give Glendora and her brother a better life. The Putnams instilled in their children the values of social responsibility and public service. These early experiences in Glendora’s life set her on a path to become both a civil rights leader and Past President of the National Board of the Y.W.C.A.

Glendora attended an African American Junior College in the South. When she was discouraged by the faculty from realizing her dream of becoming an attorney, Glendora transferred to Bennett College where she found the support she needed from the faculty. Glendora excelled at Bennett College and, after completing her studies, she moved back to Methuen to attend Boston University School of Law.

While at Boston University, Glendora had the good fortune to meet Edward Brooke, who eventually became a US senator. They stayed in touch over the years, working together on legal matters for the NAACP. When Brooke became Attorney General, and knowing Glendora’s passion for Civil Rights, he asked her to take on the role Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Division; the first African American female attorney to hold the position. Glendora continued in this role until Governor Sargent called upon her to lead the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination in the 1970’s. During the seven years that she headed the commission, she passed groundbreaking legislation in the areas of housing, education, employment, and sex discrimination. The end result was that Glendora impacted people in Massachusetts as well as around the country for many years. As President of the Y.W.C.A., Glendora traveled to many countries, where women were not always treated equally, providing workshops on the topic of racial justice.

Glendora has long been recognized for her work as a civil rights attorney and as a role model to women. In 1991, Glendora received an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from Bennett College; her alma mater where she was the first alumnus to receive such an honor. She also received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from U-Mass Dartmouth. Additionally, Glendora was the recipient of the Silver Shingle Award, for outstanding public service, from Boston University School of Law and the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association. In 2007, Glendora was named a “Living Legend” by the Museum of African American History.

Glendora leaves to cherish in her memory many friends, colleagues, sorors, board members, and mentees. She was predeceased by her brother Luther McIlwain. We will truly miss her presence and relish in the memory of so much that she accomplished in her lifetime.

Funeral arrangements are being handled by Davis Funeral Home in Roxbury, Massachusetts.