BTD to honor gay Dallas couple Chet Flake and Bud Knight
DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
Chet Flake and Bud Knight are the 2012 Black Tie Dinner Kuchling Humanitarian Award recipients. For the first time, one of the awards will be given posthumously.
The award is presented annually by the Black Tie Dinner to acknowledge the contributions of individuals who have given their time and leadership talents on behalf of the LGBT community.
Knight died earlier this year after a battle with leukemia. He and Flake were together 45 years and were married in Vancouver on their 40th anniversary.
Nan Faith Arnold, co-chair of this year’s board of directors and Black Tie Dinner, called their award a slam-dunk.
“They gave years and years and years of service with no hint of ever wanting any recognition,” she said.
Flake and Knight have been Resource Center Dallas volunteers for about 20 years. Knight helped found Toast to Life, one of the center’s annual fundraising events. Flake mostly volunteered time at the Nelson-Tebedo Clinic where he did phone counseling.
Knight served on the board of Bryan’s House during the 1990s. He also initiated the Turtle Creek Chorale’s A-Z Auction.
Flake credited Knight with the couple’s work on behalf of the community.
“Behind every good man, there’s a good man,” he joked after talking about his husband’s many achievements but taking little credit for his own.
Flake served on the board of the Chorale for 13 years and was its chair for three years.
He was a lay chaplain for the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas at St. Paul Hospital for 11 years. During the early days of the AIDS epidemic, he principally visited people at St. Paul and Parkland from out of town whose pastors were not available to visit.
He said that those visits ended with changes to the HIPPA law that prevented hospitals from releasing any information about its patients.
At their church, St. Thomas the Apostle, the couple headed a ministry for people who were HIV positive.
“People came who said, ‘I know I’m dying but my church won’t bury me,’” Flake said.
Their ministry expanded into a program to find churches to help care for those with HIV, which was the beginning of AIDS Interfaith Network.
The couple met in 1965 when Flake, who was from Los Angeles, was in Dallas working on a doctorate taking summer classes at SMU. Knight was a buyer for Neiman Marcus. They met through a mutual friend and played bridge together on their first date.
“Bud said he never played bridge so well,” Flake said.
He said it was a beautiful summer romance. But then, during a buying trip, Knight was offered a job at I. Magnin in either Los Angeles or San Francisco. He took the job in L.A.
Flake said Knight dressed many celebrities but his favorite story was about Bette Davis. She looked at Knight in the dressing room and said, “Do you smoke?” Knight said he did so Davis said, “Then sit down and smoke.”
In 1967, the couple traveled 16,000 miles across Canada and the U.S. for six months in a trailer.
When they got back to L.A., Knight was going to open a store on Melrose Place but the lease did not come through.
“Mr. Stanley [Marcus] heard about it and came out and insisted Bud come back,” Flake said. And Marcus made an appointment to help Flake get a job in Dallas as well. He became a consultant in math and science for the State Board of Education.
After two years, Knight was offered the position of president of Lester Melnick, a chain of women’s stores in Dallas, where he worked until he retired.
Flake later worked for Xerox, traveling around the world, training teachers to use the company’s products, including the Weekly Reader.
The Kuchling Award was founded as The Humanitarian Award at the second Black Tie Dinner in 1983. John Thomas, the first executive director of Resource Center Dallas, was the first recipient. The award was renamed for Ray Kuchling, a founder of the Black Tie Dinner, an early Dallas LGBT community activist and the third recipient.
Many of the recipients, including Carol West who was named last year, may have been better known throughout the community.
But when Knight and Flake were named, Arnold said, many members of the board were in tears.
Nominations are made by the board of directors, the advisory board and by the beneficiary organizations. The advisory board reviews the nominations and makes recommendations to the board of directors that votes.
Black Tie Dinner Co-chair Chris Kouvelis said that the vote for Flake and Knight was overwhelming.
Arnold said that selecting the Kuchling recipient is one of the most important things the board does during the year. She said that the chairs mostly preside over meetings but this is one of the few times they participate in the voting.
For his speech at the Black Tie Dinner on Nov. 12, Arnold and Kouvelis advised Flake that the best ones come straight form the heart.
“I’ll rely on Bud for my inspiration,” Flake said.