Margaret Gilleo, 84, Dies; Made a Yard Signal a Free-Speech Beacon


Margaret Gilleo, who turned a neighborhood dispute over an antiwar signal on her garden right into a freedom-of-speech showdown on the Supreme Court docket, died on June 8 at her dwelling in Ladue, Mo. She was 84.

Her husband, Charles J. Guenther Jr., stated the trigger was pancreatic most cancers.

Ms. Gilleo (pronounced GILL-ee-oh) by no means got down to be a First Modification crusader. However she refused to permit her rights to be impinged upon, even when neighbors questioned her patriotism or her propriety.

“I take into account myself extraordinarily patriotic,” she instructed The St. Louis Publish-Dispatch in 1991. “I like this nation. I like the flag, and I might by no means burn it. However I reserve the suitable to dissent.”

All of it started in December 1990, when the US was on the verge of the Persian Gulf warfare. Ms. Gilleo expressed her opposition to the battle with a 3-by-2-foot signal that stated: “Say no to warfare within the Persian Gulf. Name Congress now.”

Ms. Gilleo lived in Ladue, a rich, leafy suburb west of St. Louis that had a longstanding popularity as an unique group, stuffed with residents who demanded a sure degree of aesthetic magnificence.

Her signal was stolen, and a alternative was pulled up and tossed within the yard. When she complained to the police, they instructed her that she was at fault: She had violated a neighborhood ordinance that forbade nearly all yard indicators, which it outlined as a type of visible air pollution.

The Metropolis Council may make exceptions to the rule. However when she requested, its members unanimously voted towards her. So Ms. Gilleo took Ladue to court docket, with the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Ladue’s mayor, Edith J. Spink, stated that the rationale for eradicating the signal was strictly aesthetic, not a response to Ms. Gilleo’s antiwar stance. Yard indicators “would give a cluttered look — visible blight,” she stated in testimony on the U.S. District Court docket for the Japanese District of Missouri, The Publish-Dispatch reported. However Ms. Gilleo stated she had put up a yard signal earlier supporting an environmental initiative, and that it had not brought about a stir.

The case took a circuitous path to the Supreme Court docket. A district court docket injunction stopped the ordinance, which a decide referred to as “unconstitutional on its face.”

However the Metropolis Council drafted a brand new ordinance, which allowed a broader vary of indicators. Ms. Gilleo promptlychallenged the rule with an indication in her window that stated “For peace within the Gulf,” and the district court docket struck down that ordinance as properly. Ladue appealed, and the U.S. Court docket of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the decrease court docket’s determination.

Whilst authorized charges mounted, Ladue introduced the case to the Supreme Court docket, which agreed to listen to it in 1993.

“I’m actually shocked” that the case went on so lengthy, Ms. Gilleo instructed The Publish-Dispatch on the time. She added: “Lots of very highly effective folks stay right here; they could really feel threatened. You don’t problem the federal government on one thing like that, no less than not in Ladue.”

The Supreme Court heard arguments on Feb. 23, 1994. Justice Antonin Scalia famous {that a} provision of Ladue’s ordinance that allowed rectangular flags however banned triangular pennants was “a reasonably silly judgment.”

“Inform me why — why triangles are worse than rectangles,” he stated, drawing laughter from observers.

That June, the court docket issued a unanimous determination in assist of Ms. Gilleo. Justice John Paul Stevens famous in his opinion that “residential indicators are an unusually low-cost and handy type of communication,” and that proscribing them within the arbitrary method outlined in Ladue’s regulation violated the First Modification.

“A particular respect for particular person liberty within the dwelling has lengthy been a part of our tradition and our regulation,” Justice Stevens stated. He added, “That precept has particular resonance when the federal government seeks to constrain an individual’s potential to communicate there.”

Ms. Gilleo stated she was delighted, however not shocked.

“I anticipated to win all alongside,” she instructed ABC Information after the ruling.

Margaret Mary Odile Pfeffer was born in St. Louis on Jan. 23, 1939. Her father, Francis Joseph Pfeffer, ran a metallic firm, and her mom, Ruth (Gander) Pfeffer, was an equestrian and horse breeder who helped set up a charity horse present in St. Louis.

Margaret grew up primarily in Creve Coeur, a metropolis on the outskirts of St. Louis, and graduated from Villa Duchesne, a close-by personal faculty, in 1956. She earned a level in music from Maryville Faculty (now Maryville College) in 1960 and married Peter Muckerman, a administration advisor, the identical 12 months.

She taught music at Villa Duchesne and had three kids earlier than she and Mr. Muckerman divorced within the mid-Sixties. A couple of decade later, she married Alten Gilleo, a physicist, and moved to New Vernon, N.J.

After Mr. Gilleo died in 1980, she moved to Philadelphia, the place she labored within the growth workplace on the Academy of Vocal Arts. She later moved to Manhattan and, after incomes a grasp’s diploma in enterprise administration from Columbia College in 1987, labored for a financial institution. She moved again to St. Louis in 1989.

Ms. Gilleo was working on the nonprofit St. Louis Financial Conversion Undertaking, which sought to show folks concerning the hazards of the military-industrial advanced and to divert U.S. navy spending into different areas, when she filed the lawsuit. In 1994, quickly after her Supreme Court docket case, she ran for Congress, however she misplaced a Democratic major to Patrick Kelly, a patent lawyer. (He misplaced the final election to James Expertise, the Republican incumbent.)

Along with her husband, Ms. Gilleo is survived by two daughters, Lyle Seddon and Elizabeth Muckerman; a son, Lawrence; two stepsons, John Guenther and Louis Smith; a stepdaughter, Sarah Guenther; a brother, Joseph Pfeffer; eight grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.

After Ms. Gilleo’s Supreme Court docket victory, she accomplished a grasp’s diploma in theology on the Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis in 1998. Within the mid-2000s, she started instructing comparative faith and philosophy at Fontbonne College in St. Louis. She retired in 2014.

One surprising end result of Ms. Gilleo’s lawsuit was her marriage to Mr. Guenther. They met when he wrote her a supportive letter in 1993, after the Supreme Court docket determined to take her case.

Because of the Supreme Court docket determination, Ladue needed to pay a complete of greater than $335,000 to cowl Ms. Gilleo’s authorized charges in addition to its personal, The Publish-Dispatch reported in 1995.

“Any person instructed her it was a really costly private advert,” Mr. Guenther stated.


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