A Hard Fighter

dr-frank-kamenyA Hard Fighter
By Dr. Franklin Kameny

I first met Jack Nichols at one of Washington's then-every Saturday-night after-the-bars-closed parties in 1960 or very early 1961..  I was discussing Donald Webster Cory's book "The Homosexual in America" with someone and Jack overheard me.  Either still in Bethesda Chevy Chase high school or recently out of it, he was an avid fan of this first serious book on homosexuality in America.

We got to talking, and a long, productive relationship started which lasted until his premature passing some 40+ years later.

We were both very conscious of the issues raised by Cory's book and that the then tiny Gay Movement (some 5 or 6 organizations in the whole
country) was not addressing those issues adequately in the start of what became the activist "60s"

So we commenced working to create what became, on November 15, 1961, The Mattachine Society of Washington (MSW). and ultimately represented the initiation of overt gay activism and militancy for the nation.  No one else was really doing anything, so we commenced to do it all  I became its President, and Jack was an officer and member of our Board

Jack was centrally active with MSW from the outset and was deeply involved in all of our activities.  He particularly pushed addressing the psychiatrists, who formally categorized homosexuality as a mental and emotional illness, and religious conservatism.

In due course, he founded a separate group addressing religion and homosexuality.

In early 1965. Castro commenced putting Cuban gays into detention camps.
Jack suggested that we picket in protest against this.  We broadened it to protest the universal American discrimination against gays and, on April 17. 1965 with him at the head of the picket line, we picketed at the White House  and then later at the US Civil Service Commission, the Pentagon, and the State Department.. He was also with us in organizing our annual July 4 picketing at Independence Hall in Philadelphia from 1965 to 1969 which created the mindset which let to Stonewall in 1969.

Early on in this period, he met Lige Clark who became his partner for many years until Lige's untimely death in Mexico.

About 1966 or '67, he appeared in the first TV documentary on homosexuality, and was on other radio and television presentations dealing with the gay scene thereafter.

Jack and Lige moved to New York a few years later, where Jack continued to work actively in gay-related publishing both in periodic publications and books including ones celebrating his relationship with Lige.

In later years, he retired to Cocoa Beach Florida, where, until shortly before his death, he published the online Gay Today, magazine featuring news and views of gay-related events and issues.  He and I were in frequent communication during that entire period.

Along with Barbara Gittings, and a few others, Jack Nichols can very much be considered one of the Founding Fathers of the Gay Movement and one of those most involved in creating and maintaining the enormously successful activist movement which developed out of the more passive gay movement of the 1950s.  We are all indebted to him. 

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