Godsil’s Debt to Dr. King and Gandhi

In the deepest sense of things, I became a small business owner, social enterpriser, and co-founder of Sweet Water, because I marched with Dr. Martin Luther King in the Open Housing Marches, Chicago Freedom Summer 1966. Dr. King inspired me to read Gandhi back in 1966. Gandhi and my civil rights movement experience made it impossible for me to write a doctoral dissertation that hid my deepest beliefs.*

I am in this picture behind Dr. King, just stoned by mob in Chicago, and the 3rd face to the left of Andy Young, onetime UN Ambassador.


Here’s some of my bio-sketch to let possible audiences know a bit about my story.


I was judged too radical back in 1972 because I believed concepts like “cultural imperialism as a form of ‘symbolic violence’” were worthy of serious consideration. My conservative Political Science department did not think there was such a thing as cultural imperialism back then.

NYT Article


Entrepreneur of the Year


Radio Interview Best Captures My Vision


Piece on Internet Organizing Work


Academic and Communications

Co-founder and Organizer of “Milwaukee Renaissance” On Line Magazine and Movement Resource, 2005 curent; National Science Foundation and Fulbright Fellow; Jesuit Honors Society Alpha Sigma Nu, All But Dissertation Political Science, Univerity of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, M.A. St. Louis University Center for Urban Programs. Vanity publisher of Olde Godsil poetry books, “My Milwaukee” and “Forbidden Pleasures of Permaculture in the Holy City of the Sweet Water Seas.”

Civil Rights

  • St. Louis Pruitt Igoe neighborhood organizing with Catholic Worker Jesuit Scholastics and Father Shockley of St. Brigid’s Parish in old North Side Kerry Patch neighborhood
  • Southern Christian Leadership Conference(SCLC) Freedom Summer 1966, taught in Freedom School on Rooselvelt Ave., lived in “Project House” near Maxwell Street, “field marshall” in SCLC open housing marches in Marquette Park community

Peace Movement

  • co-founder St. Louis University Action Committee, St. Louis University 1966, lead campus anti-Vietnam group

Neighborhood Movement

  • Board President, ESHAC, Inc., community development corporation in Riverwest Milwaukee, key integrating and local economy neighborhood of Milwaukee, 1979–81

Historic Preservation and Artisinal “Guild Development”

Founder and President of Community Roofing & Restoration, Inc., 1975 to current, leading historic restoration firm, co-founder Milwaukee Preservation Alliance, key in saving many historic homes and buildings, including the Pabst Brewery complex and, God willing, the Soldiers Home.

Urban Agriculture, Aquaculture, and Bio-diversity Initiatives

Board Member, Will Allen’s Growing Power. Co-founder and partner in Sweet Water Organics Fish Vegetable Farm. Milwaukee Zoological Society Awardee for work regarding Bonobo Congo Bio-diversity Intiative.

More News Clips at…


NEW: Article about Godsil

Nice Dave Luhrssen piece on “philosopher roofer.” :)


In the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s January 19, 2006 “Snapshots” column, by Crocker Stephenson <http://www.milwaukeerenaissance.com/Main/CrockerStephensonOnGodsilJan2006> .

Outpost Natural Food Article re Milwaukee Renaissance Work


Godsil Interviewed by Julia Kolker <http://www.milwaukeerenaissance.com/Godsil/GodsilInterviewedByJuliaKolker> Fall, 2007 at the Riverwest Co-op Cafe


Endorsements of Public Interest Efforts

Jim Godsil is an important community activist. He’s Jane Jacob’s most ardent disciple in Milwaukee. He has had a big impact in Milwaukee. His mentor Ted Seaver helped kill 4 Spadina type Freeway projects in Milwaukee.

John Norquist— former Mayor of Milwaukee and President of the Congress for the New Urbanism

Jim Godsil is a Milwaukee treasure. He has worked tirelessly to preserve Milwaukee’s heritage. He has taken the lead in uniting diverse neighborhood groups through e-mail, picnics and simple, individual face-to-face contacts.

Jim has promoted historic home bed and breakfast tourism in the city; fought for an aesthetically valuable design for a planned Harley Davidson museum; contributed greatly to the fight against unneeded, unwanted and obscenely obscene freeway expansion in the area; and is helping lead the effort to preserve the historic structures in a Civil War era veterans hospital.

He is an intelligent, committed advocate of urbanism, diversity and creativity.

Milwaukee’s life is richer because Jim Godsil is in it.


Gretchen Schuldt,
Editor, www.storyhill.net <http://www.storyhill.net/>

I am happy to endorse James Godsil’s efforts to foster historic tourism in Milwaukee. His dissertation manuscript on “Ethnic Identities and Class Coalitions in Wisconsin, 1850–1920″ is ample evidence of his intellectual grasp of the possibilities of inspiring visitors with Milwaukee’s rich ethnic past yet embodied in its architecture and its neighborhoods. His 30 year day-to-day efforts as the owner of a company that specializes in the restoration of historic buildings and homes and his voluntary work on behalf of the social enterprises of our historic working class neighborhoods nicely complements his intellectual background.

Julia Taylor
Executive Director
Greater Milwaukee Committee

In the short few months that I’ve had to get to know Jim Godsil, I’ve found him to be an absolutely tireless advocate for the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance, the restoration of historic homes, and heritage tourism designed to realize a connection between job growth and historic preservation in Milwaukee. His ability to make connections where they did not previously exist amazes me and I’m happy to be part of his network of people who care about Milwaukee’s future.

Michael Strigel
Executive Director
Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters Madison, WI www.wisconsinacademy.org <http://www.wisconsinacademy.org/>

James Godsil, a co-founder of the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance, is now focusing his efforts on galvanizing support for preservation of the Veteran’s Administration all denominational Soldiers’ Chapel. His interests extend beyond preservation and include promotion of our ethnic diversity, cultural heritage and architectural history as the back bone of economic development that promotes our rich history for present and future generations.

Annemarie Sawkins, Ph.D, Associate Curator, Haggerty Museum of Art

That’s a fine mission and you’re a worthy emissary.

Stephen Filmanowicz
Communications Director
Congress for the New Urbanism
Chicago, IL

City of Milwaukee
Department of City Development
Housing Authority
Redevelopment Authority
City Plan Commission
Historic Preservation Commission

To Whom It May Concern,
June 16, 2004

This letter will serve to introduce Jim Godsil of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The Historic Preservation staff at the Department of City Development is familiar with and appreciative of Mr. Godsil’s roles as community organizer, preservation advocate,and roofing craftsman. About 18 months ago, he founded the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance, an advocacy group that has brought significant attention to preservation issues in Milwaukee. He has organized citizens to appear at public hearings on behalf of preservation, and keeps many in the community updated on the issues through frequent e-mails and public events.

Mr. Godsil is a skilled roofer. In this role he has done sensitive construction work on scores of architecturally and historically significant buildings in Milwaukee. His interest in mentoring younger workers has resulted in others making the decision to direct significant talents to the building arts.

Mr. Godsil is truly one of Milwaukee’s most visible preservation practitioners.


Martha L. Brown
Acting Commissioner

To whom it may concern:

For the last several years I have watched and supported the efforts of Jim Godsil to find and nurture the often-natural connections among those interested in promoting urban centers as vibrant working environments as well as those seeing our cities as repositories of cultural, architectural, and social history. Jim’s background in the trade’s with “hands on” experience restoring the structural and aesthetic integrity of Milwaukee’s historical homes and buildings is nicely balanced by his lifelong understanding of the role of compromise and collaboration in bringing social support to all members of a community. Perhaps most importantly, Jim is tireless and persistent in strengthening these “natural connections” among those of disparate factions, ideologies, and yes, classes.

Bruce Jacobs
President and CEO
Grede Foundries, Inc.


Last edited by godsil.   Page last modified on May 27, 2011

Legal Information |  Designed and built by Emergency Digital. | Hosted by Steadfast Networks