BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — The former president of the Bloomington-Normal NAACP branch and civil rights activist Merlin Kennedy has passed away.
The former president was a notable community leader in the Twin Cities.
Kennedy was known for appearing in a Santa Claus suit during a city council meeting, protesting the “One Santa Rule.” He was adamant about having a Black Santa in the Twin Cities, and even appeared in Jet Magazine for his resistance to racism and discrimination. On the day of the parade, Merlin walked the entire parade route, waving to all along the way.
The NAACP said he was also known for his efforts related to the Fair Housing Act and he worked tirelessly to help ostracized and disenfranchised community members.
Kennedy, along with Henry Gay, played pivotal roles in the success of the Bloomington-Normal branch of the NAACP.
“Merlin was as dear to me as was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” Gay said. “He was like a brother to me and I could often finish his sentences for him—we had a true relationship.”
Kennedy was named a McLean County History Maker by the Museum of History in 2015.
According to Bloomington-Normal President, Linda Foster, “Mr. Kennedy was an icon and a great supporter of the NAACP. He kept NAACP relevant and engaged with the community, which propelled the NAACP to thrive in the Bloomington-Normal community. We have lost a true hero and he will be greatly missed, but his legacy lives on.”
Kennedy was 92.