Stonewall Democrats leader dies just days after re-election to national board
Leaders in both the LGBT community and in the Democratic Party were shocked and saddened this week by the unexpected death of longtime activist Lester “Buck” Massey.
Massey, 57, apparently died in his sleep sometime on Tuesday night, March 6. His body was found by friends who went to his home to check on him after he did not show up Wednesday morning at the charity thrift store where he worked part-time.
“He was just so alive, he can’t possibly be dead!” said Christy Kinsler, a longtime friend. “He was just one of the most alive people I have ever known.”
Jesse Garcia, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, said Massey’s death is “a tremendous loss, not just to the gay and lesbian community, but to everyone who knew him. He touched a lot of lives.”
Massey, who grew up in Mississippi, was a U.S. Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam. He moved to Dallas in the 1970s and soon became active in the area’s fast-growing LGBT community, friends said.
Massey was an early member of the Dallas Gay Alliance, now known as the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance. As the AIDS epidemic began to sweep through the community in the 1980s, Massey joined the Gay Urban Truth Squad, or G.U.T.S., a group of activists who staged demonstrations such as a “die-in” at the Dallas County Health Department and a candlelight vigil outside Dallas City Hall where protesters drew chalk outlines of bodies on the concrete plaza to represent the people who had died of AIDS.
Massey was also one of the earliest members of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. He had recently been re-elected, along with Garcia, to a second two-year term representing Region 6 on the National Stonewall Democrats board of directors. He was also on the local chapter board and chair of its Political Affairs Committee.
Garcia said that Massey was as devoted to the Democratic Party, and that the night before he died, Massey had attended a meeting of young gay Democrats planning to re-launch the Dallas County chapter of Stonewall Young Democrats.
“He was there urging those young Stonewallers to take the initiative, to get out and be active and vote,” Garcia said. “He was planning to be at a similar meeting in Tarrant County on Wednesday night. He was such an inspiration.”
Garcia said Massey was “always the bulldog we needed. When gay and lesbian and transgender people were being intimidated at the Grauwyler polling place, Buck was the one who went to make sure that intimidation stopped. And when they heard reports about Republican election judges trying to intimidate Democrats and keep them away from the polls in Duncanville last November, Buck was the one that the Democratic Party leaders called for help.
“They knew that Buck was not afraid to stand up for what’s right,” Garcia said.
Massey had retired as a mail carrier from the U.S. Postal Service in recent years and was working part time at a thrift store operated by his friends Mary Franklin and Jeanne Reyer, according to Shannon Bailey, president of Stonewall Democrats of Texas and another longtime friend.
Kinsler said that Massey was dependable not just as an activist, but as a friend.
“He was my rock,” she said. “He was so capable, and I depended on him so much. He did things with such joy, and he never complained.”
Kinsler added, “Buck was a wonderful person, a very happy person who enjoyed life. He was getting to do what he wanted to do, and he was having the time of his life. We should all be so lucky.”
Funeral arrangements were pending for Saturday, March 10, at Eastgate Funeral Home, 1910 Eastgate Drive in Garland, phone number 972-270-6116.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 09, 2007