Gay Pioneer Jack Nichols, profiled last November in Windy City Times, died in Cocoa Beach, Fla., on May 2 at 1:20 a.m. The cause of death was leukemia. He was 67 years old.
'Jack Nichols was a seminal leader of the gay and lesbian civil-rights movement. He helped launch the movement in the mid-'60s, when the federal government would not hire gays and lesbians, the American Psychiatric Association considered gays per se mentally ill and many states had criminal sanctions precluding gays from congregating in bars,' said Malcolm Lazin, executive director of Equality Forum. 'Jack was among the Gay Pioneers who stepped out of a debilitating closet and helped crack the cocoon of invisibility.'
Jack Nichols helped plan the first organized and annual gay and lesbian civil rights demonstrations in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and New York City from 1965 to 1969, prior to Stonewall. The first of those demonstrations was held on July 4, 1965 at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
Jack co-founded the Washington, D.C., and Florida Mattachine Societies in 1961 and 1965, respectively. In August 1963, Jack and nine other members of the Washington, D.C. Mattachine Society openly participated in the Civil Rights Demonstration at the Lincoln Memorial. Nichols helped organize the first gay and lesbian protest at the White House on April 17, 1965.
Nichols was among the first gay activists to challenge the American Psychiatric Association's position that homosexuality was a mental illness. In 1967, he appeared as a self-identified gay male in an interview with Mike Wallace. It was the first CBS documentary on homosexuality.
From 1969 to 1973, Nichols and his partner, the late Lige Clark, were editors of GAY, America's first gay weekly newspaper. Together, they wrote the first non-fiction memoir by a gay male couple, I Have More Fun with You than Anybody. Nichols authored several other books, including Men's Liberation: A New Definition of Masculinity and The Gay Agenda: Talking Back to the Fundamentalists.
Nichols' latest book, The Tomcat Chronicles, describes his youthful indiscretions. Since 1997, he edited the internet news magazine GayToday.com . Forty-five written histories chronicle Nichols' story. His biography appears in Dr. Vern Bullough's recent book, Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context.