Famous GLBT & GLBTI People

Harvey Milk (1931-1978)

Known as the "Mayor of Castro Street", Harvey Milk was the first openly-gay person elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Who enjoyed a broad base of support including sexual and ethnic minorities, environmentalists, and labor.

As one of the first wave of gay merchants who re-invented the Eureka Valley neighborhood in the early 1970's, Harvey Milk was a standout figure in the new "Castro Village" commercial district. He helped form the area's merchants association, and used his small camera shop, offering residents (gay and non-gay) assistance with municipal and other matters.

After several attempts, in which he was challenged by the gay and Democratic party establishment, he was elected Supervisor in 1976 and was instrumental in the passage of San Francisco's first gay civil rights ordinance. Mayor George Moscone had become his close political ally. Their nemesis was conservative former police officer Dan White, the only member of the board to vote against the civil rights ordinance.

On December 1978, Dan White, irate at not being reinstated to the seat he had just resigned, shot and killed both Harvey Milk and George Moscone. The city mourned both politicians, and it seemed a murder conviction was a foregone conclusion. This over-confidence was answered with a simple manslaughter conviction. Part of Dan White's defense centered around his instability due to eating too much junk food. It became known as the "Twinkie Defense."

The verdict was followed by a gay rioting in the Civic Center area. The "White Night" riots were answered by the San Francisco Police Department with an unprovoked attack on the Castro district, in which dozens of gay people were injured and a bar, the Elephant Walk, was nearly destroyed. Its owners sued the city, and in an historic judgment, were reimbursed for all damages incurred.

Dan White was paroled in 1985 and committed suicide shortly afterward. Now Harvey's on Castro, a new gay-themed bar and restaurant in the old Elephant Walk site at Castro and 18th. Harvey Milk inspired a new generation of gay activists and will be long remembered in San Francisco and the world.

For more, read "The Mayor of Castro Street" by Randy Shilts.

This is an edited article found on the web, the full article, with pictures can be found at http://www.best.com/~dgwynn/sf1970/scene/harvey.html

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