Social Commentary by William G. Lillas – Unproven!

Social Commentary by William G. Lillas – Fiction!

Summary of eRumor:

A “dying black veteran” named William G. Lillas wrote a social commentary on the African-American community in response to the controversial shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

The Truth:

The author of this social commentary cannot be verified, but inconsistencies and lack of corroborating records cast doubt on its authenticity.

Numerous variations of the social commentary have circulated the Web since Michael Brown’s death, and details about the author’s identity have slowly changed over time.

The commentary first appeared on a personal blog in August of 2014 with the following introduction:

“I have no way of verifying this. It was sent to me by a friend of mine who I think is reliable, and he admitted up front that since no name was associated with it, he could not verify it, and he was also concerned that even if he could it would endanger the person who wrote it.” 

The commentary quickly went viral in forwarded emails and social media posts after Michael Brown’s death. In early versions of the eRumor, the author claimed that he was a 70-year-old “black vet” of the Korean War who was dying of cancer:

“I will not be around long. While my mind is still sharp, and my aim is still good, my body is eating away with cancer. It started in the prostate, and is spreading rapidly. After I die, I have asked my children to publish my writings, and include my name.”

Then, William G. Lillas was listed as the author of the commentary in a newer version of the eRumor that surfaced in November of 2014. In that version, the author claimed to be 80 years old — 10 years older than in the original version.

There’s no explanation for why the author suddenly chose to disclose his identity, or why details of his personal biography changed over time. It’s possible that, as the eRumor claimed, the author’s children divulged his named after he died of prostate cancer. However, wasn’t able to find a matching obituary or death notice for anyone named William G. Lillas.