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. …