San Francisco board supervisor, fearless gay rights activist, and all-around inspiration Harvey Milk is still a heroic figure 35 years after his murder at the age of 48. When he and San Francisco mayor George Moscone were murdered by Dan White, who was only convicted of manslaughter, outrage and grief rippled through the city. In 1984, the Academy Award-winning documentary The Times of Harvey Milk effectively chronicled Milk’s life and death, and because of that film we have indispensable insight into the mind of one of our pioneering gay rights leaders.
And yet, there are still facts about Milk that we either forget or overlook. Here are 10 facts about the man you might not know — some are funny, some are pop cultural, and some, particularly the one about Dan White, are unsettling. But 35 years on, it’s a joy to think about Harvey Milk, whose life was a terrific source of hope, ferocity, and righteousness.
1. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.
2. His yearbook quote: “Glimpy Milk—and they say WOMEN are never at a loss for words”
3. The first Harvey Milk Street was established last year in San Diego.
4. He joined the Navy as a 21-year-old and was a diving instructor at a base in San Diego.
5. His political values were conservative throughout the early ’60s. He campaigned for Barry Goldwater.
6. The Jonestown Massacre — the mass suicide of People’s Temple members in Guyana — occurred 10 days before Milk’s death. Said Dan White to his aides: “You see that? One day I’m on the front page and the next I’m swept right off.”
7. He brought in Jane Fonda to help bring down the Briggs Initiative, the antigay public schools measure.
8. Ultimate X-Men superhero Northstar, one of the most prominent gay Marvel characters, said his parents wanted him to attend real-life LGBT academy Harvey Milk High School as a child.
9. The movie Milk was conceived in 1991 with Oliver Stone as a main producer. In ’92, Gus Van Sant signed on with planned lead actor Robin Williams. The movie came out in 2008.
10. In 2013, amateur photographer Victoria Hazlewood Lord’s 8mm footage of Milk at a 1973 rally aired for the the first time at the Outfest Legacy Awards under the title Harvey Milk Supervisor Rally.
What other facts do we overlook about Harvey Milk? R.I.P. to the legend himself.