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Charles Law photo by Larry Butler

 

CHARLES LAW

Charles Law speaks at the National March on Washington for Lesbian & Gay Rights, October 14, 1979.

Walter Charles Law was born on March 26, 1951, and earned a doctorate in education from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. In his professional life, he left an indelible mark on Texas Southern University, where was appointed as University Archivist in 1977. In 1979 he developed a proposal for what would become a permanent archive to house the official records of Texas Southern University, including board meeting minutes, presidential papers, yearbooks, dissertations, photographs, and other documents.

Law was also a significant force in the gay and lesbian communities. He
was Co-Chair of the Executive Committee for Houston's Town Meeting I in 1978. He was also a founder of the Houston Committee, a black gay men's professional organization active in the late 1970s.

This local involvement eventually led him to the national stage as a speaker at the National March on Washington in 1979. He opened that speech by challenging the lesbian and gay liberation movement in the 1980's to be about "integration, and not assimilation." He worried that after the death of Harvey Milk, the lesbian and gay rights movement would face the same challenges that seemed to mark the civil rights movement ten years after the death of Martin Luther King - the sense that progress would come only for a few:

"I am afraid,"
Law said, "that we will find that those gay people who do not come across as being offensively gay, as militantly gay, obviously gay, adamantly gay, or admittedly gay will be the ones to reap the benefits…and the real sissies and the butch women of this country will still have to live in gay ghettos and not have achieved the true import of this movement."

Dr. Law passed away on May 31, 1993. See Obituary, where you can also hear his 1979 March on Washington speech.