Birthday Tribute to Billy Glover (Box Turtle Bulletin)

This article comes from today’s “Box Turtle Bulletin” online newsletter (hat tip to Adrienne Critcher — PACE Political Director — for finding the article about Billy and forwarding it to us).  Billy is a regular supporter of our local PFLAG Chapter and attends our meetings every month.  We also wish him a very happy 82nd birthday.

Billy Glover
Billy Glover (right) with his one-time partner and lifelong friend, Melvin Cain.

Billy Glover: 1932. There aren’t many people still around who were part of the homophile movement of the late 1950s. Those few who are, are a tremendous treasure to the LGBT community. A native of Bossier City, Louisiana and an alumnus of Louisiana State University (where he says he had “more fun than learning”), Billy Glover was drafted in the army in 1955, only to be discharged in 1956 for “acting up” — his words — with another man after learning that he wouldn’t get to go to Germany after training at Fort Benjamin Harrison.

He moved to Los Angeles, where he saw ONE magazine at local newsstands. Intrigued, he decided one day to show up at ONE’s office, where he met Jim Kepner, one of the magazine’s principal writers. Kepner advised him to go to the Mattachine convention in Denver. That experience led Glover to decide to work full time for the movement. He spent a few weeks working for Hal Call (see Sep 20) in San Francisco before returning to ONE in Los Angeles. He worked first as a volunteer, then as the organization’s first paid employee after Kepner left in 1960. Glover’s role, at first, was mostly as a gofer. He helped to distribute copies of ONE to local newsstands and package the magazines in their brown paper wrappers for mailing to subscribers. He did much of the bookkeeping, and in 1962 held the title of Secretary of Social Services.

By 1964, infighting was mounting within ONE, Inc., largely due to two powerful personalities who saw ONE’s future in two entirely different ways. Dorr Legg (see Dec 15), envisioned the organization’s main mission as educational. He established the ONE Institute of Homophile Studies, the organization’s educational arm which became the first institution to provide LGBT studies in the U.S. (even going so far as to gain accreditation with the State of California.) Don Slater (see Aug 21), ONE magazine’s editor, also saw the organization’s main mission as educational, but believed that the magazine, along with the organization’s vast archives (Slater was also ONE’s archivist), was the best way to further that mission. The split came to a head during a rancorous board meeting in January, 1964, when Slater pressed the board to elect Glover to fill a vacancy. Legg and his faction opposed the nomination, and balloting went into the night and well into the next day. The debacle led two board members to resign in disgust, and allegations of vote rigging made the legitimacy of two more members’ positions questionable. Nevertheless, the group held together, tenuously, until April, 1965, when Legg, with his allegedly “packed” board’s backing, effectively fired much of ONE’s editorial staff – at least those who hadn’t resigned in anger.

Slater saw that as more evidence that Legg was determined to shut down the magazine and transfer all of the organization’s resources to his fledgling Institute. The following Saturday night, Slater, Glover, and Slater’s partner, Tony Reyes, entered ONE’s darkened offices, packed up the magazine’s assets and archives, and moved the operation, lock stock and barrel, to a new location “for the protection of the property of the corporation.” For three months, confused subscribers received two competing issues of ONE in the mail, one published by ONE, Inc., and the other by Slater’s The Tangent Group, named for a popular column in ONE. In the ensuring court battle, ONE, Inc. was allowed to keep its name. But, partly because ONE’s governance was in shambles, the Tangent Group was allowed to keep its assets.

Glover stayed with Slater and the Tangents Group, which later incorporated as the Homosexual Information Center with Glover as its president. He worked on the committee which organized the 1966 protest, known as “the motorcade,” which protested the exclusion of gays from the military, and he was part of the 1969 protest against The Los Angeles Times over its refusal to print an advertisement because it contained the word “homosexual” (see Nov 5) Glover returned to Louisiana in 1989 for family reasons, although he remained active in HIC.

Glover was never much of a leader, per se, in the gay rights movement. Instead, he has been just one of its many foot soldiers who happened to play some rather pivotal roles when called upon to do so. That seems to be the particular example he has set, and it is the advice that he passes on to others: when you have a cause you believe in, get involved:

You don’t have to know anything at first. You don’t even have to become a “leader” or “expert” but just being there to help and support each other is the main benefit to you and the cause. And when you look back years later, as I have, you will see that by luck you seemed destined to do what you have done, and you can have no regrets for what you didn’t risk doing since you took a chance and followed what seemed like a dream. As one of ONE’s founders said in the fifties, to actually someday see people like us marching down Hollywood Boulevard proudly and to have lived to see that day multiplied around the nation is enough.

Billy turns 82 today, and is living in his old family home on Bossier City where he’s still active online with his prolific and informative emails, some of which ends up on his blog.

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