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Documentary to highlight life of Hilliard July 29

By Staff | Jul 20, 2021

WGCU is celebrating a humanitarian, activist, educator, author, playwright and friend — Sanibel resident Robert Hilliard — with a documentary based on his life. Hilliard, 96, was born into Depression era Brooklyn, New York, which would profoundly influence his life.

A U.S. Army veteran, he was wounded twice before becoming an Army journalist whose attention to the plight of concentration camp survivors in Germany drew the attention of hundreds of citizens and even President Harry Truman, who took action to lift them out of the hunger, thirst and lack of medical attention in which they were living.

Hilliard would go on to earn a doctorate from Columbia University, write 35 books of nonfiction and poetry, and have a guiding hand in what became the Public Broadcasting Act. He was on hand in the Oval Office when President Lyndon Johnson signed the act in 1967.

The producer of the 30-minute documentary is Melanie Pefinis, a Southwest Florida writer and documentary filmmaker who has worked in multicultural environments including Japan, England, Portugal, France, Africa, Malaysia, Thailand, Jamaica, Central America and elsewhere.

“A Force for Freedom: The Robert Hilliard Story” will air on WGCU PBS on July 29 at 8 p.m.