Members of the LGBT community unfurl a flag for Pride Month at Dallas City Hall, top, and open an exhibit on how Dallas confronted the AIDS crisis. Both the flag and exhibit remain on display through June. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)
UNT special collections displayed in two LGBT exhibits in downtown Dallas
DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
“T— Get info you need for Calendar listing & return to me. Thx DV”
That’s what is written on a program for the Southwest Regional Conference on AIDS and Deafness that took place at the Dallas Hilton Inn in 1989. “DV” was then-Dallas Voice editor Dennis Vercher, and “T” is Tammye Nash, then a writer for and now editor of Dallas Voice. The program is in a display case in the lobby of Dallas City Hall as part of the current exhibit, “Being Here: A Glimpse into the LGBTQ Movement in Dallas and the Fight Against AIDS,” put together by University of North Texas libraries Special Collections.
Across the street at the Erik Jonsson Library, an exhibit called “Pride in Dallas: Landmarks in Dallas LGBTQ History” remains on view through September, on the seventh floor.
This is the second year Dallas City Hall is hosting an exhibit for Pride Month. The focus of this year’s exhibit is how the LGBT community in Dallas dealt with the AIDS crisis.
While gays and lesbians created services for people infected with HIV, local and federal government did little. In 1991, Dallas County was eligible for a $700,000 prevention grant, according to a Dallas Morning News article on display, but three of five county commissioners decided to withdraw because the grant included money for condoms and bleach kits to sterilize needles.
According to statistics found in the archives, by 1988, Dallas was in the top 10 in number of cases of AIDS. Of those top 10 cities, Dallas spent the least per case — $38.86 per person compared to Los Angeles and San Francisco, each of which was spending more than $3,000 per person with AIDS.
Candy Marcum and Howie Daire created the first services in Dallas for people with AIDS. Their counseling center became Oak Lawn Community Services.
Two AIDS warriors from the ’80s are profiled in the exhibit: Jamie Shield and Rodd Gray, aka Patti le Plae Safe.
Shield was director of programs for the AIDS Resource Center and has become co-chair of Texas’ HIV-STD Prevention Community Planning Group and planning coordinator for the North Central Texas HIV Planning Council.
Gray first took on his drag persona at the War on AIDS benefit in 1986. He co-founded Home for the Holidays to send people with AIDS home to their families for Christmas. Today, more than 30 years later, he continues to raise money at AIDS benefits and for other charitable causes.
On a panel about the Names Project is a picture of a quilt made for Brent Cole. Cole was a travel agent at The Reservation Desk, a travel agency I co-owned with current Turtle Creek Chorale Executive Director Bruce Jaster. One day, after working at his desk for an hour or two, Cole suddenly couldn’t communicate verbally. He came to the office for another week, and then we arranged for his to move to Hillcrest House where he died a few months later.
In a display case is a picture of Duane Kearns Puryear. He’s seen holding a panel in Washington, D.C. at a showing of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. It reads, “My name is Duane Kearns Puryear. I was born on December 20, 1964. I was diagnosed with AIDS on September 7, 1987 at 4:45 pm. I was 22 years old. Sometimes, it makes me very sad. I made this panel myself. If you are reading it, I am dead…”
Puryear, according to an article published by the Names Project, was infected at age 16, but not diagnosed until he was 22. He died at age 26.
While Puryear was alive, his panel hung at Resource Center. On the trip back from Washington, he put the panel in the overhead bin on the airplane and forgot it. He called American Airlines and they searched for it, but it never reappeared. The panel that’s sewn together with other Dallas panels in the quilt was recreated from this picture by his mother.
UNT Exhibits Coordinator Jamie Parker said the City Hall exhibit and the one across the street at the main branch of the Dallas Public Library were created separately. The library exhibit was assembled from pieces of last year’s City Hall display.
Parker said she found footage that included Puryear in the KXAS archive that is also preserved in the UNT Special Collections. Unfortunately there was no way to include that footage at City Hall.
In looking for what to include, Parker said she wanted artifacts “that make a statement.” She described a grand marshal sash given to former Resource Center Food Pantry Director Mary Franklin as one of her favorite items.
“How the community honored people who preserved history with their cool sashes and awards is so interesting,” Parker said.
That sash and other photos and artifacts are housed in display cases on the seventh floor of the library.
Some of the fun facts from the library exhibit point out just how well the Dallas LGBT community organizes. For example, DIVA — the Dallas Invitational Volleyball Association — began in 1989 with six teams. It quickly grew to 54 teams and some 400 individuals, making it one of the largest sports organizations in DFW and one of the largest volleyball organizations in the U.S.
Cheer Dallas formed in 1993. By 1995, the group was participating in the National Cheerleaders Association All Star Competition, where they placed second.
Artifacts from the 1970s and ’80s tell the story of how the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade began and why Dallas’ Pride is in September. The story began 1977 when a Dallas schoolteacher — Don Baker — was fired from his position by DISD after he came out in a TV interview. The
September celebration of his victory, which included federal Judge Jerry Buchmeyer declaring the Texas sodomy law unconstitutional, was the origin of Dallas Pride.
The history of gays on the Dallas City Council includes the story of two runs for office by Crossroads Market owner Bill Nelson, but it also remembers the candidacy of an openly gay man in 1978 — the Rev. James Harris. Former Councilman Craig McDaniel will be happy to know he’s remembered in the exhibit by his official Dallas Morning News title, Craig McDaniel F.O.G. (that’s First Openly Gay).
There’s another reason to visit the seventh floor of the Jonsson library: The floor’s been closed for a couple of years while renovations were made to its exhibit and documents collection. Back on display are original copies of Shakespeare’s First Folio, printed in 1623, and an original copy of the Declaration of Independence, the only one owned and displayed west of the Mississippi.
The exhibit at City Hall remains on display in the lobby under the Pride Flag through June. The Pride exhibit at the Jonsson Library remains on display through September.