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Jack Nichols
(March 16, 1938 - May 2, 2005) U.S.A.

Jack Nichols

Author, activist


Jack Nichols was a native of Chevy Chase, MD. Until he moved to New York City with his partner Lige Clarke in the late 1960s, Nichols was extensively involved in gay activism and gay life in Washington, DC. Nichols and Clarke lived together from 1964 to 1975.

Jack co-founded The Mattachine Society of Washington (1961) and The Mattachine Society of Florida (1965). Starting in 1963, he chaired the Washington Society's Committee on Religious Concerns and initiated the first organized dialogues on America's East Coast between LGBT activists and clergy representing various denominations.

Throughout the 1960s, Nichols organized and participated in the first public gay rights demonstrations, including those at the White House, the Pentagon, and the State Department; he also participated in the Annual Reminders at Independence Hall each July 4 from 1965 to 1969.

On August 28, 1965, members of the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis staged another of the first major gay rights demonstrations in the United States, this time targeting the State Department.

Jack Nichols
Jack Nichols, United States Department of State, Washington, D.C., August 28, 1965. Photo by Kay Tobin

As with the previous protests in 1965 - at the White House (April 17 & May 29), the United Nations (April 18), the Civil Service Commission (June 26), and Independence Hall (July 4) - the Mattachine Society circulated a press release announcing the picket; as opposed to the previous efforts, however, the State Department press release garnered significant attention.

Specifically, during an August 27 news conference, reporters asked Secretary of State Dean Rusk about the upcoming demonstration; Rusk responded:

"I understand that we are being picketed by a group of homosexuals. [Laughter]. The policy of the Department is that we do not employ homosexuals knowingly, and that if we discover homosexuals in our department we discharge them. [This] has to do with the fact that the Department of State is a department that is concerned with the security of the United States... This has to do with problems of blackmail and problems of personal instability and all sorts of things. So that I don't think we can give any comfort to those who might be tempted to picket us tomorrow."
Due in large part to Secretary Rusk's statement, the August 28 protest was, in terms of press coverage, the most successful to date.

couple worked closely with Frank Kameny and the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., as that organization helped launch the direct-action phase of the movement in 1965.

Jack Nichols
Lige Clarke and Jack Nichols, New York City, c. 1970. Photo by Kay Tobin

In the mid-1960s, Nichols and Clarke began writing a column, "The Homosexual Citizen", for The Mattachine Review. (The title - "The Homosexual Citizen" - first appeared in the 1950s in a column written by lesbian pioneer Dr. Lilli Vincenz.)

In 1967, Nichols was one of the first Americans to discuss his homosexuality on national television, and, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, he was instrumental in the successful lobbying of the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.

Jack Nichols and his partner Clarke were active members in the homophile movement; the On February 10, 1975, Lige Clarke was shot and killed under mysterious circumstances near Veracruz, Mexico; he was thirty-two. There are a number of theories as to what happened the night of Clarke's death, though there are no definitive answers.

In 1981, Nichols delivered a speech about the movement strategies he has long espoused, a tradition based on the 19th century works of Edward Carpenter and Walt Whitman. Biographical accounts of Nichols' life can be found in a variety of histories, including Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context (2002).

With his long-time comrade, the late Lige Clarke, Nichols co-edited America's first gay weekly newspaper, GAY (published in Manhattan, 1969-1973). Also with Clarke, he co-wrote the very first non-fiction memoir by a male couple: I Have More Fun with You Than Anybody (1972), and the first non-fiction collection of letters from gay men seeking advice from the two GAY editors: Roommates Can't Always Be Lovers (1974).

Jack NicholsFollowing Clarke's 1975 murder, Nichols' major philosophical work, Men's Liberation: A New Definition of Masculinity, dedicated to Clarke, was published in 1975 by Penguin Books. Nichols also wrote Welcome to Fire Island (1976). In 1996, Prometheus Books published his polemic, The Gay Agenda: Talking Back to the Fundamentalists. On May 25, 2004, Harrington-Park Press (Haworth) is publishing Nichols' uninhibited memoir The Tomcat Chronicles detailing his erotic adventures while hitchhiking across America in the early 1960s.

Since February, 1997, Nichols has been Senior Editor at GayToday.com, a popular online newsmagazine. He lives directly on the ocean in Cocoa Beach, Florida. Nichols remained active until his death . He died of cancer; he was sixty-seven.


Source: The LGBT Religious Archives Network - http://www.lgbtran.org/Pioneers.asp - http://lgbt-history-archive.tumblr.com/

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