WGCU documentary chronicles ‘A Force for Freedom’

A local hero gets a closeup in a WGCU documentary at 8 p.m. Thursday, July 29. 2021, on WGCU PBS. Producer Melanie Pefinis illuminates the life and accomplishments of this Sanibel resident.

Dr. Robert Hilliard was a 19-year-old Purple Heart recipient serving as a reporter in the U.S. Army in Germany right after World War II ended when he was sent to cover what would become the story of his life. It was a liberation concert at a makeshift hospital and displaced persons’ camp at a former monastery outside Munich called St. Ottilien. His involvement in the plight of those in the camp 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 dozens of books of nonfiction and poetry and become a college dean and professor. He also had a guiding hand in what became the Public Broadcasting Act and was on hand in the Oval Office when President Lyndon Johnson signed the act in 1967.

Now 96, Hilliard remains politically active. He attended the women’s march in Washington, D.C. in January 2017 and is an author and a playwright who uses his words today to fight hate. 

The documentary re-airs Saturday, July 31 at 8 p.m. on WGCU Encore.