Randy Shilts

Randy Shilts(August 8, 1951– February 17, 1994)- was a pioneering American journalist and author. He worked as a reporter for both The Advocate and the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as for San Francisco Bay Area television stations.

Born August 8, in Davenport Iowa, Shilts grew up in Aurora, Illinois, with five brothers in a politically, working-class family. He majored in journalism at the University of Oregon, where he worked on the student newspaper, the Oregon Daily Emerald, becoming an award-winning managing editor. During his college days, he came out publicly as a gay man at age 20, and ran for student office with the slogan "Come out for Shilts."

Shilts graduated near the top of his class in 1975, but as an openly gay man, he struggled to find full-time employment in what he characterized as the homophobic environment of newspapers and television stations at that time. After several years of freelance journalism, he was finally hired as a national correspondent by the San Francisco Chronicle in 1981, becoming "the first openly gay reporter with a gay 'beat' in the American mainstream press."Coincidentally, AIDS, the disease that would take his life, first came to nationwide attention that same year, and soon Shilts devoted himself to covering the unfolding story of the disease and its medical, social, and political ramifications. Shilts wrote three best-selling, widely acclaimed books. His first, is a biography of the first openly gay politician: The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk, who was assasinated, was written at a time when "the very idea of a gay political biography was brand-new."

Shilts's second book, And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic (1980-1985), published in 1987, won the Stonewall Book Award and brought him nationwide literary fame. And the Band Played On is an extensively researched account of the early days of the AIDS epidemic in the United States.

His last book,Conduct Unbecoming: Gays and Lesbians in the US Military : Vietnam to the Persian Gulf, which examined discrimination against lesbians and gays in the military, was published in 1993. Shilts and his assistants conducted over a thousand interviews while researching the book, the last chapter of which Shilts dictated from his hospital bed.

Shilts's writing was admired for its powerful narrative drive, interweaving personal stories with political and social reporting. Shilts saw himself as a literary journalist in the tradition of Truman Capote and Norman Mailer.

Shilts died, aged 42, at his 10-acre ranch in Guerneville, Sonoma County, California,