Milk: What You Need to Know About the Real Harvey Milk

Timeline for Harvey Milk

1930                     May 22 – Harvey Bernard Milk is born in Woodmere, NY


1946                      Milk makes the Bay Shore [, NY] High School junior varsity football team


1947                     Milk graduates from Bay Shore HS


1951                      Milk graduates from State University (SUNY) at Albany with a degree in Mathematics, and joins the U.S. Navy


1955                      Milk is honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy and pursues a career as a high school teacher


1963                      Milk begins a new career with the Wall Street investment firm Bache & Co.


1968                      After dabbling in off-Broadway theater production, Milk moves to San Francisco with his lover Jack McKinley, who is working on that city’s original staging of the musical Hair; in SF, Milk gets a job in finance


1969                      June 28 – The Stonewall Riots in New York City’s Greenwich Village spark the birth of the Gay Liberation movement


1970                     After publicly burning his BankAmericard, Milk is fired from his job; he moves back to New York City


1972                     Milk moves from New York City back to San Francisco with his lover Scott Smith


1973                     Milk and Smith open the Castro Camera shop in the Castro District


Allied with Teamsters representative Allan Baird, Milk effects a ban of Coors Beer from bars in the Castro District and elsewhere in the city


[during this timeline through 1978] Dick Pabich and Jim Rivaldo work with Milk as political strategists; Frank Robinson works as Milk’s speechwriter


With a campaign managed by Smith and Rivaldo, Milk runs for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for the first time, and loses


1974                     Milk reorganizes the Castro Village Association of local merchants, and helps launch the first Castro Street Fair


[during this timeline through 1978] Michael Wong works with Milk as an advisor


David Goodstein becomes owner and publisher of the national gay magazine The Advocate


1975                     Castro Camera customer Danny Nicoletta joins the shop’s staff, in addition to working on all of Milk’s subsequent campaigns


Milk again runs for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and loses; former California State Senator George Moscone, supported by Milk, is elected Mayor of San Francisco


1976                    During this time through 1978 Cleve Jones works with Milk as an activist Milk is appointed by Mayor Moscone to the Board of Permit Appeals, a position from which he is later removed by the mayor after announcing a bid for California State Assembly


Milk is instrumental in placing a ballot initiative approved by Mayor Moscone that successfully replaces citywide elections with district elections


Milk loses the State Assembly election to Art Agnos


Milk and Rivaldo co-found SF’s Gay Democratic Club (which is posthumously renamed the Harvey Milk Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Democratic Club)


1977                     June 7 – “Orange Tuesday;” Activist Anita Bryant wins her campaign to overturn Dade County Florida’s gay rights ordinance, effectively mobilizing a decades-long campaign of intolerance against the gay community


With the new district elections system in place, Milk – now living with his lover Jack Lira – runs for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for a third time in a campaign managed by Anne Kronenberg, winning the seat for District 5, which includes the Castro; he is the first openly gay man ever elected to major public office in America (following the 1974 elections of openly gay women Kathy Kozachenko and Elaine Noble in Michigan and Massachusetts, respectively); among his opponents in the election is openly gay attorney Rick Stokes


1978                     January 9 – Milk is sworn into office, as are his fellow newly elected supervisors ex-fireman Dan White (representing District 8, the Excelsior District) and women’s rights advocate Carol Ruth Silver, among others


Issues that Milk acts on while in office include programs for senior citizens; dog owners cleaning up after their pets; and accessible and comprehensible voting machines for all citizens


With schoolteacher Tom Ammiano coming out and putting a face on the issue, Milk captains the landmark San Francisco gay rights ordinance (he notes that the ordinance’s “main focus is to prevent people from being fired”), which is co-sponsored by Silver and passed by the Board of Supervisors (White’s is the only dissenting vote); Mayor Moscone signs the bill into law


Bryant successfully lobbies for the repeal of gay rights ordinances in St. Paul, MN (April 25), Wichita, KS (May 9), and Eugene, OR (May 23); the Wichita repeal  in particular galvanizes the SF community (“Wichita means fight back!”)


Capitalizing on Bryant’s momentum, California State Senator John Briggs sponsors Proposition 6 (the Briggs Initiative), seeking to ban gays from teaching in California public schools and to remove known homosexuals and their supporters from their posts


June 25 – The Rainbow Flag, designed by Milk supporter Gilbert Baker as a symbol of unity in the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender; also known as GLBT [Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender]) community, is unveiled for the first time in SF at the Gay Freedom Day Parade; Milk rides in the parade, encouraging bystanders and TV/radio viewers to “just come on out!”


November 7 – Proposition 6 is defeated, after Milk’s campaign against it (in part, “Don’t Let It Happen Here”) rallies support from California Governor Jerry Brown and the state’s Democratic Party, the Log Cabin [gay grouping of] Republicans, former California Governor Ronald Reagan, Dan White, thousands of voters, and President Jimmy Carter


November 10 – Dan White resigns as supervisor; he then reconsiders and lobbies unsuccessfully to get his job back


November 18 – San Franciscans and the entire world are horrified by the news that SF-based People’s Temple’s cult leader Jim Jones has ordered the murders of U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan and others on an airstrip in Guyana, South America; and, hours later, that Jones has presided over the mass suicide of 900 church members who drank cyanide-laced Kool-Aid


November 27 – At City Hall, White shoots Mayor Moscone and Supervisor Milk to death; that night, more than 30,000 people march from the Castro to City Hall in a peaceful candlelight vigil


Milk and Moscone’s closed coffins lie in state at City Hall for several days as thousands of mourners file past them


December 2 – Milk’s friends scatter his ashes into the Pacific Ocean


December 4 – Supervisor Board President Dianne Feinstein is sworn in as Mayor, succeeding George Moscone


Harry Britt is appointed to succeed Harvey Milk as the supervisor representing District 5


1979                     May 21 [the day before what would have been Harvey Milk’s 49th birthday] – After pleading “diminished capacity” due to isolation, lack of intimacy with his wife, and consumption of too many sugary snacks (the “Twinkie Defense”), White is convicted by a jury of Voluntary Manslaughter and sentenced to 7 years in prison; the sentence sparks the “White Night Riots” in protest, with clashes between police and citizens leading to police cars being set on fire and the entrance to City Hall being battered


1984                      January 7 – White is paroled from Soledad State Prison after less than 5 years served


                                November 1 – The documentary feature The Times of Harvey Milk, directed by Rob Epstein and produced by Richard Schmiechen, screens at the Castro Theatre


1985                      March 25 – The Times of Harvey Milk wins the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature


                                October 21 – Dan White commits suicide at home, in his garage


1999                      June 14 – Time Magazine names Harvey Milk one of the “Time 100 Heroes and Icons” of the 20th century


2008                     May 19 – California State Assemblyman Mark Leno (D – San Francisco)’s sponsored bill to permanently mark [Milk’s birthday] May 22 as Harvey Milk Day (as a day of special significance, not a state government holiday) is passed by the State Assembly


May 22 – On what would have been his 78th birthday, a sculpture bust of Harvey Milk, with accompanying bas-relief imagery and a Milk quotation on its pedestal, is unveiled in San Francisco; the Memorial stands in the Ceremonial Rotunda of City Hall at the top of the Grand Staircase, where wedding ceremonies are held, and is the first likeness of an openly gay person to be permanently ensconced in a civil building in America


August 5 – The California Senate splits along party lines in narrowly approving the Harvey Milk Day bill, which will soon be weighed by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger