Archives gives glimpse into the history and development of Dallas’ vibrant LGBT community

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

Morgan Fairchild, left, Faye Dunaway, right, present William Waybourn with a check for $50,000
MOMMIE DEAREST | Morgan Fairchild, left, Faye Dunaway, right, present William Waybourn with a check for $50,000 to help found the AIDS Resource Center. (Courtesy Phil Johnson Library)

Resource Center Dallas has been archiving the history of the LGBT community of Dallas since Phil Johnson donated his own collection to them in the 1990s.

Johnson had saved every issue of the Advocate, This Week in Texas and Dallas Voice since the magazines were founded. He also had clipped articles about the LGBT community from the Dallas Morning News and the now-defunct Dallas Times Herald since the 1940s.

The center recently received several new donations to add to the collection Johnson began.

Blake Wilkinson and Rick Vanderslice donated items from Queer LiberAction that will make one of the most stunning visual displays when the center has more space to display them, officials said. QL’s kissing booth, Milk box, megaphone, signs and fliers document a resurgence in activism that included a response to the Rainbow Lounge Raid.

When Cece Cox became executive director of the Resource Center, she found a bill the city sent to Gay Urban Truth Squad, a direct action protest group from the early 1980s that was Dallas’ version of ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power). The bill was for clean up after a protest on a plaza outside the convention center near City Hall.

Hundreds had gathered outside a political fundraiser where President George H.W. Bush was speaking for the largest AIDS protest that had been held in Dallas. Protesters chalked outlines of bodies on the sidewalk and wrote the name of someone they knew who had died of AIDS.

Those attending the fundraiser had to walk over those “bodies” as they left their event.

The bill listed charges of $81 for an electrician and $100 to powerwash the sidewalk. A note to pay with DGA funds is initialed by John Thomas, executive director of Resource Center Dallas at the time.

Cox has the bill framed in her office.

William Waybourn, who was one of the founders of Dallas Gay Alliance and the foundation that became Resource Center Dallas, also recently donated a number of pictures to the center from its early days.

Resource Center spokesperson Rafael McDonnell told the story — told to him by Waybourn — of how the Nelson-Tebedo Clinic received its initial funding after Waybourn spoke to Dr. Mathilde Krim, founder of the American Foundation For AIDS Research, about the lack of medical services for persons with AIDS in Dallas.

“The best thing we can do for someone with AIDS is get someone a bus ticket out of here,” Waybourn told her.

Together with the AmFAR’s founding chair Elizabeth Taylor, the organization donated $100,000 to start the clinic.

Paul von Wupperfeld recently donated a letter that he sent to George W. Bush’s campaign advisor, Karl Rove. In it, he asked Rove to help secure a meeting to encourage Bush to support hate crime legislation.

Other archive acquisitions include a Cheer Dallas megaphone and uniform. That group performed through the 1990s and were featured in a scene in the 1995 film “Jeffrey.”

Because of the enormous amount of documents and artifacts, much of the archives are kept off premises. To arrange to see or to use any of the collection, contact librarian Sandy Swann at Resource Center Dallas.

She said researchers working on master’s theses have contacted her about using documents.

“We had an English grad student studying drag performance in the DFW area,” she said. “He went back looking at old ads in the Voice, Texas Triangle and TWT.”

She said when Cathedral of Hope recently celebrated its 40th anniversary, she helped by providing material from the original Circle of Friends, the church’s founding group.

The archive also proved helpful to groups in the recent battle with DART over nondiscrimination based on gender identity, Swann said.

The Phil Johnson Library, Resource Center Dallas, 2701 Reagan Street. Mon., Wed. and Thurs. 10 a.m. –6 p.m.; Tues. 11 a.m.–4 p.m.;  Fri. 10 a.m.–4 p.m., and Sat. noon–4 p.m. Contact Swann for more information.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 13, 2010.