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Donald F. Baker
(1947 - 2000) U.S.A.

Donald F. Baker



Born in Dallas, Mr. Baker graduated from W.H. Adamson High School and attended several Texas colleges before joining the Navy in 1968. After his discharge in 1972, he studied education at State University of New York. He returned to Dallas and began teaching at Daniel Webster Elementary and earned a master's degree from Southern Methodist University.

Dr. Louise Young, a longtime Dallas lesbian activist, said she met Mr. Baker in 1977 when she joined the Dallas Gay Political Caucus, now the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance. She said she was struck by his courage, especially when he was faced with threats and public scrutiny while challenging the Texas law.

Baker was teaching at Daniel Webster Elementary School in 1977 when school Superintendent Nolan Estes announced that there were no gay teachers in Dallas schools. Mr. Baker appeared in silhouette on television, announcing his sexual orientation and his position with the district. That was a brave step because of public views toward gays and lesbians at the time.

He started the now-defunct Community Productions, a company that brought gay performers to Dallas. He organized the first conference conducted with religious and gay leaders in 1978. His influence extended beyond Dallas. In 1979, Mr. Baker was the plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the Texas law against sodomy. The case worked its way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1986, but the justices refused to hear the appeal. The Texas law is still on the books but is rarely enforced.

Baker was the president of the Dallas Gay Alliance (c. 1981). From 1980 to 1982, Baker was president of the Dallas Gay Political Caucus. The New York Native recognized him in 1982 as one of America's 10 most influential gay people. He received the Dallas Gay & Lesbian Alliance's Texas Freedom Award in 1984 and the Human Rights Campaign's Outstanding Citizen Award in 1985.

He later took a job as director of training and development at Gerber Garment Technology and was transferred to Connecticut in 1989 to manage that department. He moved again, this time to Boston, to take a position as the director of training and development at Vinfen Corp. Early this year, he enrolled as a graduate student at Harvard Divinity School.

But his path with that cause was not always a clear one. Mr. Baker was raised Pentecostal and hated himself for years because he was gay, said Michael Hartwig, his life companion. During that time, Mr. Baker had a "religious zeal" that he later used to help gays and lesbians gain acceptance, Mr. Hartwig said.

Baker died at his Boston home after a seven-year battle with cancer.


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