Greg Gravemier, 60, a longtime human rights activist, passed away on March 15 in Sterling, Va. The cause of his death has not yet been determined, according to his partner of 37 years, Leland Roth.
A native of Linton, Ind., Gravemier was especially active in progressive causes in Decatur, Ill., where he lived for a number of years. He was an early member of the gay and Lesbian Association of Decatur ( GLAD ), and stepped in as that organization's second president in 1993. He also served on the Decatur Human Relations Commission, among many local organizations.
Gravemier had been editor of a newspaper in Casey, Ill., so he was especially savvy about utilizing local media in his activism work, said Rick Garcia, now of The Civil Rights Agenda, who frequently worked on LGBT causes alongside Gravemier.
Garcia remembered GLAD's contribution to a statewide initiative called, "Equality Begins at Home" in 1999. "You would think that they would have just organized a rally in Decatur, but instead they bought five billboards," said Garcia. "Under his leadership, they had great visibility almost overnight."
Gravemier was an early winner of Equality Illinois' Freedom Award in 1998, back when the organization was known as the Illinois Federation for Human Rights. He and Roth moved to Virginia in 2001, where Gravemier worked for a printing business.
Garcia said that Gravemier "stepped up to the plate and organized in the heart of the Heartland. It's one thing to do that in Boystown and another thing to do that in Decatur. He understood where the power was, and how to get things done, just by being a regular Central Illinois kind of guy."
In May 2012, Gravemier wrote a letter to GLAD's member newsletter, looking back on his and Roth's time in Decatur and the people they met there: "Once in a while we corner a friend or two and tell them some of the many experiences we had in Decatur. We will always be grateful to the Decatur community, both gay and straight, for how they treated us during our Decatur tenure."
"He touched a lot of lives," said Roth of his partner. "I'm very proud of him."