Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Harvey Milk: A Timeline

May 22, 1930. Harvey Bernard Milk is born in Woodmere, New York.

1943-1947. Harvey attends Bay Shore High School. He is a basketball player, a linebacker on the football team, and is popular with everyone because of his quick wit and sense of humor. He knows he is gay, but is in the closet. Living so close to Fire Island and New York City, Harvey finds many opportunities to meet other gay young men.

1947-1951. Harvey attends New York State Teachers College at Albany and earns a degree in Mathematics. No one suspects him of being gay. He is described as a “man’s man.”

1951-1955. Harvey serves in the Navy and is an expert deep sea diver on the San Diego-based U.S.S. Kittiwake. He is honorably discharged. Loving a good story, Harvey never contradicts the rumor that emerged during his campaign – that he was dishonorably discharged (like so many others) for being gay.

1956. Milk meets Joe Campbell, a beautiful younger man, whom Harvey courts with love letters. They will be together for six years – Harvey’s longest relationship. Joe Campbell is later immortalized as the “Sugar Plum Fairy” in Lou Reed’s song “Walk on the Wild Side.”

1957-1961. While Joe stays at home as a typical “housewife,” Harvey works as a high school math teacher and basketball coach at Hewlitt High School in New York. When he tires of teaching, he becomes an actuary.

1962. Harvey stops seeing Craig Rodwell, a man he is dating, when he realizes Craig is involved with fighting for gay rights. Harvey prefers to live a peaceful, closeted life.

1963. Harvey begins working in a Wall Street investment firm. His math skills, his quick thinking, and his ability to visualize and predict social trends, enable Harvey’s success. He settles into a new short-lived “marriage” with Jack McKinley, a stage manager for Hair.

1970. After nearly a decade of living with the influence of young hippies, Harvey is fired from his job in finance when he refuses to cut his long hair and burns his BankAmericacard. Craig Rodwell hardly recognizes his formerly conservative friend.

1972. Harvey and his new boyfriend, Scott Smith, move to the Castro in San Francisco. The neighborhood has been a gay mecca for less than a decade.

March 1973. Harvey opens Castro Camera with Scott. The store becomes a place that people go for help. Cleve Jones says, Harvey “was just always helping people, fixing problems.”

1973. Harvey helps the Teamsters union with their Coors boycott, convincing all Castro bar owners to remove the beer – in exchange for jobs for gay deliverymen.

November 1973. Angry about the way San Francisco is seemingly controlled by real estate moguls and huge corporations, Harvey runs for supervisor for the first time. He is not backed by most of the gay political clubs and organizations that think that Harvey wants too much, too soon. He loses.

1974. Harvey organizes the Castro Village Association of local merchants, and helps launch the first Castro Street Fair.

November 8, 1977. Milk is elected to the Board of Supervisors for District 5 in his fourth run for elected office. He is the first openly gay man elected to public office in the United States. Harvey insists on being sworn in the steps of City Hall surrounded by his supporters (including a new boyfriend, Jack Lira) who march from the Castro for the event.

June 25, 1978. Harvey rides in the Gay Freedom Day Parade, urging bystanders and television viewers to come out to their families, friends, and coworkers. Harvey himself never comes out to his parents.

May 21, 1978. The day before his 48th birthday, Harvey dresses up like a clown as part of a promotional publicity campaign for Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. He runs all over town telling people he’s an elected official.

March 7, 1978. Harvey serves as Deputy Mayor for a day. Art Agnos (a future mayor of San Francisco) tells Harvey he has the potential to be mayor within ten years.

April 1978. George Moscone signs the San Francisco Gay Civil Rights Ordinance – a bill that Harvey introduced.

November 7, 1978. Proposition 6, which would have authorized the firing of gay teachers and their supporters, is defeated due in part to Harvey’s diligent campaign against it.

November 10, 1978. Dan White, Harvey’s fellow supervisor, resigns, claiming that he cannot support his family on his salary. He later asks for his job back, but is refused.

November 27, 1978. Dan White assassinates Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone at City Hall. That night, more than 30,000 people peacefully march from the Castro to City Hall and hold a candlelight vigil.

December 2, 1978. Milk’s friends scatter his ashes, along with Kool-Ade and bubble bath, into the Pacific Ocean.

May 21, 1979. Dan White is convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to seven years in prison. Thousands of furious people converge upon City Hall, throw rocks, break windows, and set police cars on fire. Later that evening, several police cruisers filled with officers wearing riot gear arrive at the Elephant Walk Bar on Castro Street, storm into the bar and beat patrons at random. These incidents become known as the White Night Riots.

1982. The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk, by Randy Shilts is published.

January 7, 1984. Dan White is released from prison – after serving just five years – and moves back to San Francisco with his family.

March 25, 1985. The Times of Harvey Milk wins the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. Director Rob Epstein thanks his partner in his speech.

October 21, 1985. Dan White commits suicide in his garage.

June 14, 1999. Time Magazine names Harvey Milk one of the “Time 100 Heroes and Icons” of the 20th century.

May 22, 2008. On what would have been his 78th birthday, a sculpture of Milk is unveiled in the Ceremonial Rotunda of City Hall – where wedding ceremonies are held.

September 30, 2008. California State Assemblyman Mark Leno’s bill to mark Harvey Milk’s birthday, May 22, as a state day of special significance, which has been passed by the State Assembly and State Senate, is vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

February 22, 2009. After being nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, the film Milk, directed by Gus Van Sant, wins Best Original Screenplay (Dustin Lance Black) and Best Actor in a Leading Role (Sean Penn).

2009. The ACLU steps in when a Ramona 6th grader, Natalie Jones, is barred from giving a presentation on Harvey Milk. The principal and district superintendant later apologize and allow Natalie to present her report.

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