b. March 16, 1938
d. May 2, 2005
“Every person I work with knows something better than me. My job is to listen long enough to find it and use it.”
In 1961, along with Frank Kameny, Jack Nichols cofounded the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., the the first gay civil rights organization in the nation’s capital. Four years later, Nichols and other members of the organization conducted the first gay rights protest at the White House.
Nichols also participated in the Annual Reminders—pickets held in front of Independence Hall each Fourth of July from 1965 to 1969. The Annual Reminders helped galvanize the organized LGBT civil rights movement, paving the way for the Stonewall Riots in 1969.
Nichols joined Frank Kameny, Barbara Gittings and other activists in a multi-year battle with the American Psychiatric Association (APA) to remove homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses. The APA eventually conceded, after failing to produce scientific evidence to support the classification.
In 1967 Nichols became one of the first Americans to speak openly about being gay in the documentary “CBS Reports: The Homosexuals.” Though he appeared on screen, he said he was forced to use a pseudonym after his father, an FBI agent, threatened him, fearing the U.S. government might discover his son was gay.
Nichols, along with his partner Lige Clarke, wrote the first LGBT interest column, “The Homosexual Citizen,” in a mainstream publication in 1969. The famous couple would later launch GAY, the first weekly gay newspaper in New York City. The publication flourished until Clarke was murdered in Mexico in 1975. Nichols later became an editor for the San Francisco Sentinel and GayToday.com.
b. November 23, 1960
“It’s about focusing on the fight and not the fright.”
Robin Roberts is an award-winning broadcast journalist and co-anchor of ABC News’ “Good Morning America.” She became an outspoken advocate for cancer research, after being diagnosed twice with the disease. She won a 2012 Peabody Award for her reporting on the issue.
Born in Alabama, where her father was a Tuskegee Airman, Roberts was an athlete who excelled at school. She was a standout on the Southeastern Louisiana University women’s basketball team. The University retired her number in 2011, and she was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012.
Early in her broadcast career, Roberts predominately covered sports for Southern television affiliates and radio stations. She joined ESPN in 1990. As a sportscaster, she became well known for her catch phrase, “Go on with your bad self.”
ABC named Roberts co-anchor of “Good Morning America” with George Stephanopoulos in 2005. The show has since earned four Emmy Awards for Outstanding Morning Program.
Roberts made headlines in 2007 after going public about her breast cancer treatment and again in 2012 when she was diagnosed with MDS, a disease formerly known as pre-leukemia.
After a bone marrow transplant from her sister, she collaborated with the Be the Match registry to publicize the need for bone marrow donors. Since then, more than 56,000 people have registered to donate bone marrow.
Her courage and advocacy have been recognized with numerous honors from organizations like The Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program and The Susan G. Komen Foundation. She received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPY’s in 2013. The same year, she came out as a lesbian on Facebook, saying she was grateful for her “longtime girlfriend Amber Laign.”
In 2014 Roberts received the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism and was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame.
b. April 16, 1939
d. March 2, 1999
“My sexuality has never been a problem to me, but I think it has been for other people.”
Dusty Springfield was an English singer and record producer best known for her sultry, soulful sound. Born Mary Isobel Bernadette O’Brien in London (she got the nickname Dusty for playing football with the boys), Springfield was one of the most successful British female performers in history, with six top 20 singles in the United States and 16 in Europe. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the U.K. Music Hall of Fame.
In 1958 Springfield joined her first singing group, The Lana Sisters, later forming The Springfields with her brother. She first received attention for her hit “I Only Want to Be With You,” and later with a string of solo songs like “Wishin’ and Hopin’” and “Son of a Preacher Man.”
Springfield received acclaim in 1969 when she released “Dusty in Memphis,” an album that was awarded a prestigious spot in the Grammy Hall of Fame. She also became known for her blonde bouffant, heavy makeup and colorful evening gowns—a style emblematic of the Swinging Sixties.
Springfield spent many years out of the public eye, reappearing in 1987 to collaborate with the Pet Shop Boys on “What Have I Done to Deserve This,” which topped both the U.S. and U.K. music charts. By the 1990s, Springfield’s music was experiencing a renaissance, appearing on several film soundtracks, including “Pulp Fiction.”
During the late 1960s and early ’70s, Springfield was romantically linked to Norma Tanega, a California-born singer-songwriter who wrote a few of Springfield’s songs such as “Go My Love.” During an interview in 1970, Springfield said, “People say that I’m gay, gay, gay, gay, gay, gay, gay, gay. I’m not anything.”
She was linked to many women during her life, including photojournalist Faye Harris and singer Carole Pope. In 1982 she married actress Teda Bracci, whom she met at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Though the wedding wasn’t legally recognized, they lived together for two years.
Later in life, Springfield became a camp icon, attracting gay fans and drag impersonators. In 1994 a breast cancer diagnosis took a toll on her career.
Springfield’s inclusion in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame came just two weeks after her death. At the induction, her friend Elton John said, “I just think she was the greatest white singer there has ever been … Every song she sang, she claimed as her own.”