Jack Nichols

On this date in 1938, pioneering gay-rights activist John Richard “Jack” Nichols Jr. was born in Washington, D.C. He was raised in Chevy Chase, Md., and came out as gay to his parents as a teen. He lived with the uncle and aunt of Iran’s Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi for three years and learned Persian. He dropped out of school at age 12.

In 1961 he co-founded the Mattachine Society of Washington, a new branch of the gay civil rights organization originally started in 1950. In 1965 he formed a branch in Florida. He led the first gay rights march on the White House in 1965 and participated in the first of the “Annual Reminder” pickets, which took place at Independence Hall in Pennsylvania on July 4th each year from 1965-69.

In 1967 Nichols became one of the first Americans to talk openly about his homosexuality on national television when he appeared in the documentary “CBS Reports: The Homosexuals.” He disguised his identity because his father, an FBI agent, had allegedly threatened him with death if the government found out Jack was his son and he lost his security clearance. In 1968 he and his partner, Lige Clark, began writing a column called “The Homosexual Citizen,” which appeared in Screw magazine.

Nichols and Clark moved to New York City in 1969 and founded the weekly paper GAY, the first such publication. In 1975 Clark was shot under mysterious circumstances while on a road trip through Mexico, leaving Nichols bereft. His murderers were never apprehended. Nichols continued to write and engage in activism, serving as news editor of the San Francisco Sentinel and senior editor of Gay Today, an online news magazine. Nichols died of complications from cancer of the salivary gland. (D. 2005)

Freedom From Religion Foundation