Kirk LeMoyne ‘Lem’ Billings



John F Kennedy and Lem Billings | JFK Presidential Library | 16081gh

The book ‘Jack and Lem: The Untold Story of an Extraordinary Friendship’ by David Pitts, deals with the late President’s lifelong friendship with Kirk LeMoyne ‘Lem’ Billings, after the pair first met in Choate prep school. The book, first issued in 2007, claims President John F Kennedy had a special room in the White House reserved just for his gay best friend. The pair were so close that they wrote lengthy letters to each other whenever they were apart.


Uncredited | 16082gh

Mr Billings never came out as gay, but Ben Bradlee, a mutual friend and influential newspaper editor, admitted: “I suppose it’s known that Lem was gay….It impressed me that Jack had gay friends. Everybody knew, but that’s not the kind of thing you talked about in those days.”

In a subsequent book “RFK Jr. and the Dark Side of the Dream” Jerry Oppenheimer claimed the pair had “a friendship that included oral sex, with Jack always on the receiving end”.

“Lem” Billings, born April 15, 1916, died May 28, 1981.



When gay men fled the UK



Ferry “Compiegne” and train Fleche d’Or, Calais |  1966 |  Wilhelm Tausche  | 14992

David Boyle writes in The Guardian about one of his ancestors, a gay man, who got caught up in the furore and witch hunt which followed the Pheonix Park Murders in Dublin in 1882, when republican terrorists stabbed the Irish secretary to death. At the time, Dublin was ruled by Britain.

The murders shocked the public on both sides of the Irish Sea, and to claw back the moral high ground Irish nationalist MPs launched a campaign to identify homosexuals in the Irish government or part of the establishment in Dublin – starting with the senior detective in charge of the Phoenix Park case, James Ellis French. The campaign led to huge torchlight processions and mass demonstrations in many towns and cities of Ireland. … Most of the defendants were acquitted – the main issue at stake was whether it was physically possible to commit sodomy in a hansom cab.

The murder became the excuse a zealous anti-homosexual MP, Henry Labouchère, his chance to tag onto an unrelated Bill, the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885, a clause entitled “Outrages against public decency” which had the effect of making sex between consenting adult men illegal. A situation which remained until 1967.

His amendment was debated at night in a few minutes, and only one MP queried whether it was relevant to the debate.

In 1895 after the passage of the Bill, Mr Boyle’s gay relative vanished from the records. The witch hunt had started in England. He records

Contemporary letters imply the same of many others – maybe many hundreds of them. One correspondent reported that there were 600 passengers queuing for the Calais ferry the night Oscar Wilde was arrested that April.

The train and ferry to Calais was a popular escape route, but there were others. Generations of gay men who wanted to be able to live without fear of arrest found other ways to get out of the UK. There were the forces; there was the Merchamt Navy. And there may have been other surreptitious ways to leave London, which remain undocumented in gay histories.

In his book “Mr Clive and Mr Page”, published in January 1996, twenty years ago this month, which was set in the 1920s, Neil Bartlett OBE, who was Artistic Director of the Lyric Hammersmith from 1994 to 2005, wrote of one of the characters in his novel who booked a passage through Thomas Cook’s on a tea clipper. There was a regular clipper service between Riga and Hays Wharf, now a shopping centre but then a working wharf, adjacent to Tower Bridge. It is understood there was a small community of ex-patriate British gay men in Riga throughout the 1920s and 1930s, but your Activist’s enquiries of gay organisations in Riga have failed to elicit any information regarding this community or what happened to them at the outbreak of World War II (if they were still there then.)

After World War II another expatriate community of British gay men emerged in Tunis, North Africa.

I would be delighted to hear from anyone who has any further information about the migration of gay men from the UK following the 1885 Act.


The Homosexual Conspiracy and Lord Dervaird



Lord Dervaird | Uncredited | Public | 16021

Lord Dervaird, the judge who resigned over the so-called “magic circle” gay sex scandal of 1989 has died, aged 80. He admitted being “indiscreet” when he resigned from the Court of Session as a newspaper prepared to print a story about him. Claims of a conspiracy between homosexual judges, sheriffs and lawyers had rocked the Scottish legal world. It was alleged the men involved had let criminals off lightly due to fears of blackmail over their sex lives.

It led to the launching of an inquiry by then prime minister John Major, under William Nimmo Smith, the prominent QC, who found no evidence to support any of the gay conspiracy claims, but in his 1993 report he commented on Dervaird: “It would not be untrue that he had had homosexual relations.”

Lord Dervaird was born John Murray in Stranraer, studied law at Oxford and became a QC in 1974. He became a Judge of the Court of Session in 1988 and took the title Lord Dervaird.

The magic circle claims were made the next year. There was an existing police investigation into alleged links between senior public figures and rent boys. Nimmo Smith concluded he had “no reason to believe that Lord Dervaird’s official conduct as a judge had in any way been affected by the matters which led to his resignation”.

The late Edinburgh lawyer Robert Henderson was subsequently identified as being behind the magic circle claims, and was later exposed as a child abuser by his daughter.


Tim Campbell



Tim Campbell | Uncredited | 16016

Gay History is sad to learn of the passing of long-time activist Tim Campbell, the former editor of the GLC Voice newspaper, who died on Dec. 26, 2015 at a hospice in Houston, Texas. He was 76 and had fought a short battle with aggressive cancer.

Confrontational in approach at times, in the 1980s he was one of the few openly gay men who would get back to reporters on issues ranging from the AIDS crisis to gay bathhouses and the annual Pride Festival. He and former Minneapolis City Council Member Barbara Carlson almost came to fisticuffs on several occasions. He was fearless in his arguments with police, and once took a swing with his briefcase at a member of the Minneapolis vice squad after the officer called him “Timmy.”

He will be remembered for bringing a cream pie to an AIDS task force meeting, and dressing as a campy Lady Liberty to protest the Rev. Jerry Falwell.

“He was the queen of guerrilla theater,” his longtime friend Dean Amundson said.

The Star-Tribune notes that

Campbell was tireless in his coverage of HIV/AIDS and promotion of safe sex. He advocated for gay marriage long before same-sex civil unions were even recognized by employers.

Campbell founded the GLC Voice in 1979 after working for a short-lived newspaper called Positively Gay. Every two weeks over the paper’s 13-year run, 10,000 copies of the GLC Voice were distributed on college campuses, in gay bars and sex-oriented bookstores and in street racks.

He never made money on the venture and said half-jokingly that he “earned a starving.”

His activism goes back more than 40 years. In 1973-74, Campbell joined with Jack Baker and Mike McConnell, the pioneering advocates of gay marriage, to conduct seminars in sensitivity training on gay issues for students, police, drug counsellors and business people. He advocated for news organizations to use “gay” and “lesbian” rather than “homosexual.”

When he retired 10 years ago he returned to Texas and immediately took up advocacy for his retirement community.

Gay History sends condolences to Mr. Campbell’s family, friends and colleagues.