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by Jack Wampler

During this week of Pride Month, we chose to tell the stories of those who once struggled to lay the foundations for Tucson’s LGBT+ community today.

In 1962, Bill Schober opened up Mr. Jim’s on West University Ave. It provided a community for gays and lesbians in a pre-Stonewall Era. In 1970, it changed its name changed to The Graduate and became Tucson’s first openly gay and lesbian bar. The bar closure in 1999 was accompanied by an auction of memorabilia that raised over $2,000 for AIDS organizations.

Also in the early 70’s, local lesbian-feminists created Tucson’s first women’s center. It featured a coffee house and offered residence for all local women. The lesbian-feminist activists also established a Rape Crisis Center, Tucson Women’s Commission, and the Domestic Violence Shelter.

In response to the tragedy of Richard Heakin in 1976, activists formed Arizona’s first LGBT+ political orginzation, the Tucson Gay Coaltion (TGC). The group was largely responsible for the passing of Ordinance No. 4616 by the city council on February 7th, 1977. The ordinance amended previous legislation, thereby banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodation. (You can read Tucson’s full code on Human Relations here: https://www.tucsonaz.gov/files/oeop/Chapter_17.htm) This legislation was the first of its kind in the state of Arizona and among the first in the entire country. 

Also in 1977, Tucson’s first gay newspaper, The Tucson Gay Newsletter, was launched. It was founded by Bob Ellis to bolster communication within the LGBT community and later went on to become the Tucson Observer. Ellis served as editor in chief for almost 40 years and stayed involved in the paper until he passed away. 

Sources:

https://soazseniorpride.org/50-years-of-tucson-pride/

https://web.archive.org/web/20160402123525/http://tucsonpride.org/history.html

http://tucsonobserver.blogspot.com/2008/05/history-of-lgbt-tucson-graduate.html

https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/view/3918821/sents-dance-in-t-sents-dance-in-the-red-tucson-gay-museum

https://www.tucsonweekly.com/TheRange/archives/2014/09/10/happy-birthday-bob-ellis

https://realtucson.com/2015/11/08/west-university/

Jack is one of our Summer 2021 Interns

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