Larry Golden, professor emeritus of Political Studies and Legal Studies and a co-founder of the Downstate Illinois Innocence Project at UIS, was one of 10 finalists for the 46th State Journal-Register First Citizen Award.
The First Citizen Award is presented annually to a local resident who has "amassed a lifetime of service to the Springfield community." This year's finalists were recognized and the winner was announced at a breakfast ceremony held October 17 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
Students working with the Innocence Project help investigate cases of individuals who have been wrongly convicted. In addition to his work with the project, Golden is active in the American Civil Liberties Union and was involved in the voting-rights lawsuit that forced changes in Springfield city government in the 1980s.
Bill Clutter, Innocence Project director of investigations, called Golden the "ultimate community organizer. He would probably have that commitment wherever he lived," said Clutter. "The fact that he lives in Springfield is really our gain."
Golden arrived on campus at then-Sangamon State University in 1970; he retired from full-time teaching in 2004.
"I consider myself very lucky that I made the choices that I made and stayed here," he said, adding that he doesn't know exactly why he works to benefit people he doesn't know.
"It's important to be a good citizen," he said. "It's important to think about the nature of the world we live in."
Golden was nominated for the award by Guerry Suggs, himself a former First Citizen.
Businessman and community volunteer J. Garth "Butch" Elzea was this year's winner. Other nominees were William Boyd, retired vice president of Memorial Medical Center; Julie Cellini, board member of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation; Leland Grove Police Chief Mark Gleason; architect Earl Wallace Henderson; retired dentist Joseph Link; Springfield Ballet Company co-founder Grace Luttrell Nanavati; Paul O'Shea, planning and design coordinator for the city of Springfield; and physician Diana Widicus.
The finalists and winner were chosen by a nine-member board from nominations submitted by community members.
See more about the award, including profiles of the finalists