UPDATED: Harvey Milk once lived in Dallas, and Neil Emmons says he knows where

harveymilk

Neil Emmons, history buff and openly gay former Dallas city plan commissioner, said he heard from a “friend of a friend” over the weekend that gay rights pioneer Harvey Milk once lived in his building, Turtle Creek Gardens at 2525 Turtle Creek. Emmons said he was initially “very skeptical,” but for some reason it kept gnawing at him. Emmons noted that he didn’t have to look any further than the Wikipedia entry on Milk to confirm that he once lived in Dallas, and this week Emmons went to the downtown library to do some additional research. What Emmons came up with is a 1969 city directory that lists a “Harvey Milk” as living at 2525 Turtle Creek, then called the Gardens on Turtle Creek but since renamed Turtle Creek Gardens. Emmons says the surname “Milk” was very uncommon in Dallas at the time, and he’s convinced this was the listing for the man who would later become the mayor of Castro Street.

“It’s good enough for me,” Emmons said. “I’m excited. I’m ecstatic. I think this is great, and Dallas should know he was here. I promise I’m the only gumshoe who’s gone down and pulled those out of the back of the seventh floor of the library.”

Based on my subsequent research, it appears to be true that Milk once lived in Dallas for a brief time, which is news in and of itself. But I’m not sure Emmons’ listing in the city directory matches up with the dates when Milk was here. According to the Susan Davis Alch Collection at the San Francisco Public Library, Milk and then-partner Joe Campbell lived in Dallas from September 1957 to February 1958 but moved back to New York because they were “unhappy” here. The timeline is based on letters Milk wrote to his friend Susan Davis. I can’t find the letters themselves online anywhere, but a document on the library’s Web site provides this summary:

After completing his stint in the Navy, Harvey Milk spent the fall and winter of 1955 in Los Angeles. Mike Sather, a mutual friend, introduced Milk to Susan Davis during that time. It is also during this period that Milk met and fell in love with John Harvey, a friend of Sue’s. In spring 1956, Milk moved to Miami with John Harvey and Don [Donna?]. Once there, Milk and Harvey parted company. In a few letters, Milk notes that he had a “blind” love for Harvey which was not returned. Although Milk intended to settle in Miami, he returned to New York in May because of family problems.
In spite of his desire to spend the summer in New York and then return to Miami, Milk remained in NYC after meeting Joe Campbell in June or July 1956. In September? 1957, they moved to Dallas and his letters describe how unhappy they were there. They moved back to NY in February 1958, after taking a trip through New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Shortly after their return, Campbell’s mother died in March or April 1958. In December, Milk describes Campbell’s job as a page and handyman at Xavier Cugat’s Club, Casa Cugat.

No one here at the Voice — including Publisher Robert Moore, who started the paper in 1984, and Senior Editor Tammye Nash, who came here in 1989 — was even aware that Milk had lived in Dallas. And despite all the hype surrounding the release of the biopic “Milk” two years ago, I’ve never heard anyone mention it. Needless to say, though, we’ll piece together whatever information we can about Milk’s time in Dallas for an upcoming issue. Thanks for the tip, Neil.

UPDATE: Neil Emmons just sent me a follow-up e-mail. Here’s what he said:

After the Dallas Voice was “unsure of my dates,” I couldn’t let it rest. I was able to locate a Dallas co-worker of Milk’s from 1968. James F. Wilson was working as an intern in 1967-68 when Harvery Milk was transferred from New York to Dallas by Bache & Co. where he worked as a securities analyst. Wilson remembers Milk well as someone who was always smiling, ever kind, and treated everyone equally, even the interns. In this time period, there was only one person with the last name Milk in the city of Dallas, and I have no doubt that the Harvey Milk listed in the 1969 city directory was THE Harvey Milk. Happy Easter and Happy Passover, Harvey. So much you had yet to do. …

—  John Wright

Oak Lawn's oldest structure is for sale, and Neil Emmons fears it will be demolished

The building that served as the original Oak Lawn United Methodist Church now stands at 3206 Knight St.
The building that served as the original Oak Lawn United Methodist Church now stands at 3206 Knight St.

The oldest structure in Oak Lawn is on the market, and openly gay Dallas Plan Commissioner Neil Emmons fears it may soon be demolished. The building at 3206 Knight St. is nestled in behind the Valero convenience store  and across from Kroger. Emmons said although it’s been added to, the base of the structure served as the original Oak Lawn United Methodist Church at Cedar Springs Road and Oak Lawn Avenue when it was founded in 1874. According to “The Oak Lawn Vision: A History of Oak Lawn United Methodist Church,” the building was erected in only 15 days. Here’s an excerpt from the book:

“The little building served until 1890, when it was replaced by a larger structure. Then it was moved to Cedar Springs and Douglas and served as the Oak Lawn school house. In 1904, Will H. Cullum bought that building and moved it to Hall and Knight Streets, where he converted it into his home. It was later moved to the back of the lot and rebuilt facing Knight Street where it remains today.”

Here’s what the building originally looked like:

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—  John Wright

PUBLIC SAFETY ALERT: Armed robber on the loose in Oak Lawn (but what else is new?)

I’ll have more on this in Friday’s Voice, but in the interest of public safety I thought I’d mention here that an armed robber(s) is on the loose in Oak Lawn, kidnapping people at gunpoint and forcing them to withdrawal money from ATMs. I’m working to get additional details from Dallas police, but the man reportedly cases parking lots and catches people while they’re preoccupied or distracted. He’s also becoming more brazen by the day. This represents yet another spree of violent crimes in what is already the city’s third-most-dangerous area, which also happens to be its traditional gay neighborhood. Coincidence? I’ll let you make that call, lest I be labeled a conspiracy theorist. You can read more from WFAA by going here. Also, here are some safety tips distributed to neighbors yesterday by Dallas City Plan Commissioner Neil Emmons, who lives right near where one of the robberies occurred:

  • Be extra aware of our surroundings.
  • Walk in pairs. Walk with loud whistles around your necks.
  • Walk with cell phones and call 911 immediately upon notice of ANYTHING out of the ordinary. Begin the call with your EXACT LOCATION in case the call is terminated early. More calls = more police coverage for our neighborhood.

UPDATE: According to Senior Cpl. Gerardo Monreal, a spokesman for DPD, the main suspect is described as a black male, age 25 to 30, 6 feet to 6 feet 3 inches tall, and 170 to 200 pounds. He is clean shaven and dressed neatly in casual attire. Also, the number of attacks that are believed to be linked has now grown to seven, stretching from the most recent one on Oct. 10 all the way back to mid-August.

—  John Wright