Jack Nichols



Jack Nichols (September 2, 1907–November 18, 1996)- (b. John Richard Nichols in Washington, D.C. on March 16, 1938 — May 2, 2005) was an American gay rights activist. John Richard Nichols was born in Washington. He came out as gay to his parents as a teenager. Nichols founded the Mattachine Society in 1961 with Franklin E. Kameny in Washington DC, and the Florida branch in 1965 and campaigned publicly for gay rights nearly a decade before the Stonewall riots of 1969. Beginning in 1963, he chaired the D.C. chapter's Committee on Religious Concerns, which later developed into the Washington Area Council on Religion and the Homosexual. This organization was pioneering in forging links between the gay rights movement and the National Council of Churches. Mr. Nichols, who helped organize some of the country's first civil rights demonstrations on behalf of gay men and lesbians, was a founder of Gay, the first gay weekly newspaper in the United States.

Nichols led the first gay rights march on the White House, in April 1965. He also successfully lobbied the American Psychiatric Association to rescind its definition of homosexuality as a form of mental illness.In 1969, after moving to New York, Nichols and his partner Lige Clarke founded GAY, the first weekly newspaper for gay people in the US distributed on newsstands."At one point, I would really say that he was just about the most visible gay person in the country, if we go back to the mid-1960's," said Rodger Streitmatter, a professor of journalism at American University and the author of "Unspeakable: The Rise of the Gay and Lesbian Press in America" (Faber & Faber, 1995). "He was always willing to be identified as a gay person, and that was still an era when many people were not."

When Mr. Nichols and Mr. Kameny started the Washington Mattachine Society in 1961, identifying oneself in public as gay posed serious risks. Homosexual acts were against the law in every state, and gay men and lesbians who came out risked being jailed or institutionalized. In 1967, Mr. Nichols became one of the first Americans to talk openly about his homosexuality on national television when he appeared in "The Homosexuals," a CBS documentary. (Though he allowed himself to be interviewed on camera, Mr. Nichols used a pseudonym in the broadcast at the request of his father, an F.B.I. agent.)

Among Mr. Nichols's books are "Men's Liberation: A New Definition of Masculinity" (Penguin, 1975); "The Gay Agenda: Talking Back to the Fundamentalists" (Prometheus, 1996); and "The Tomcat Chronicles: Erotic Adventures of a Gay Liberation Pioneer" (Harrington Park Press, 2004).

From February 1997, Nichols was Senior Editor at www.GayToday.com, an online newsmagazine. He died on May 2, 2005, of complications from cancer in Cocoa Beach FL where he lived.