In 65 years of Quaker activism, Lillian Willoughby has been on the line in nonviolent demonstrations opposing war, race discrimination and nuclear proliferation even when they resulted in her arrest.
Now, just shy of 90, hard of hearing, and using a wheelchair, Willoughby is embarking on a new first: going to jail.
Yesterday, Willoughby joined five other antiwar activists who were among 107 arrested March 20, 2003, for blocking the entrance to the federal courthouse in Center City the day after the start of U.S. bombing in Iraq.
Pleading guilty to a misdemeanor count, Willoughby, of Deptford, and the other five refused to pay a $250 fine, electing instead to spend seven days in jail.
"You understand that in every one of these cases, the punishment has been a $250 fine or seven days in prison?" U.S. Magistrate Judge Arnold C. Rapoport asked Willoughby, whose daughter Susan had to wheel her about eight feet from the bench so she could hear the judge.
"Yes," Willoughby replied. "I don't want it any different."
Willoughby handed Rapoport a book, Fifty-two Stories of Nonviolence, and spoke for about five minutes about the Iraq war and her sadness about the U.S. involvement in a war she said had recently claimed the son of a good friend.
"Here I sit in this 21st century, and I think that it is time for this madness to stop," Willoughby said.
Afterward, Willoughby and her husband, George, who was honored in India two years ago for promoting the precepts of Mohandas K. Gandhi, moved proudly down the hall on their way to register her with federal probation officers in anticipation of her sentence.
"I've been arrested before but never spent time in jail," Willoughby said, clutching a bouquet of flowers.
She insisted she was not worried by a prospect that frequently moves criminal defendants to tears: "This is the start of a great adventure."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard W. Goldberg, who has handled the prosecutions of all 107 protesters, said he believed Willoughby would serve her time.
"Except for that fact that she is 90, she is in reasonably good health, and the Federal Detention Center officials believe they can handle this," Goldberg said.
No date was set for the start of the sentences of Willoughby and the five others: Michael Brix, 28; Marion Brown, 58; and Jason Fultz, 29 - all of Philadelphia - and Cassandra Heino, 22, and husband Christopher Haw, 23, of Camden.
As with the earlier sentencings, the six were supported by a group of about 50 people who packed the courtroom. Many were members of the Brandywine Peace Community, a decades-old antiwar group based in Swarthmore.
Before sentencing, Willoughby and the five others joined supporters and members of the Brandywine Peace Community for a service at the Friends Center at 1501 Cherry St. and then made a "Walk for Peace" to the U.S. courthouse at Sixth and Market Streets.
Goldberg said yesterday's sentencing leaves about a dozen remaining of the 107 arrested March 20, 2003.