Thomas Lawrence Higgins,|
(June 17, 1950 - November 10, 1994) U.S.A.
Thom Higgins, the son of Leo and Katherine Higgins, was born in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. The family later moved to Minnesota, where Thom attended Catholic elementary schools in New Brighton and Roseville. He attended Catholic high schools in Minnesota and at Assumption Abbey in Richardton, North Dakota and entered the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks in May 1967 as part of a special program for gifted high school students.
At University of North Dakota, he concentrated his studies in journalism and theater and was associate editor, arts and entertainment editor, and columnist for the school paper, Dakota Student . In March 1968 he was suspended for his involvement with an underground student publication entitled Snow Job . Following this, Thom did not return to UND.
After his suspension Thom moved to St. Paul and worked as the chief announcer and program manager for the Radio Talking Book Network (RTBN), a state service for the blind (1969-1970). He also freelanced as a writer for the Minnesota Daily and for Hundred Flowers , a Twin Cities underground newspaper. He was a voracious reader, who also enjoyed collecting art and listening to music.
Thom was the first person in Minnesota to be granted a presidential conscientious objector draft classification (1969). After leaving his position at RTBN in 1970, he became heavily involved in political activities, including volunteer draft counseling and work with Minnesota Clergy and Laity Concerned, two committees of the Minnesota Human Rights Council, and the steering committee of the University Strike Against the War (May-June 1970).
During the remainder of the 1970s, Thom worked as an advertising copywriter. In addition to freelance work, he was employed by a number of Twin Cities firms, including Olson's Planned Interiors (1971), Scoutten Associates (1972-1973), and Colle & McVoy Advertising (1973-1974). During this period he also wrote for the magazine MPLS. and remained politically active, working for Jack Baker's campaign for Minneapolis City Council (1973), Gary Flakne's campaign for Hennepin County Attorney (1974), and Steve Carter's campaign for president of the Minnesota Student Association at the University of Minnesota (1976).
In 1981 Higgins entered the nursing program at Minneapolis Community College and received his associate degree in 1983. He worked as a nurse until his death. Throughout his adult life Higgins was a leader in the gay rights movement. He was a founding member and officer of several gay organizations, including FREE (Fight Repression of Erotic Expression), The Gay Imperative, and the Church of the Chosen People, a gay pagan religion established in 1975where he became one of the four Archons (ministers). The Church of the Chosen People, advocated homosexuality as a "healthy and fulfilling personal option."
He was also a member of Target City Coalition and the Cuban Refugee Task Force of Positively Gay. And he was also known for throwing a pie in the face of anti-gay activist Anita Bryant on October 14, 1977, in Des Moines, Iowa.
Anita Bryant, a popular singer turned spokeswoman for the Florida citrus industry, added "antigay crusader" to her résumé in 1977. A conservative Christian, she became enraged when the Miami - Dade County government enacted a gay rights ordinance that year. Not satisfied with campaigning for antigay discrimination in Florida alone, she took her crusade national.
At a press conference in Des Moines on October 14, 1977, gay rights activist Tom Higgins threw a pie in Bryant's face. She commented, "At least it was a fruit pie," then prayed for Higgins and burst into tears.
Her antigay activism did serious harm in the short run but was counterproductive in the long run, providing an opportunity to educate the public about gay people. "In the weeks before and after Dade County, more was written about homosexuality than during the total history of mankind," Harvey Milk said later.