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John Keasler Interview


Description: Born and raised in a small farming community in northeast Texas, John would later enlist in the US Army in 1969 and serve a tout of Duty in Vietnam. He eventually would settle in San Diego in 1975 and was almost immediately swept up by the social and political activism during that time. He would be involved in the “No on 6” fight against the Briggs initiative in 1978 and was the co-chair of San Diego’s Fledgling Gay Pride March where he would fight for the inclusion of women and socialists in the planning and parade. In 1979 he became the first editor of Update Newsmagazine. During the 1980’s he would be the President and Vice-President of San Diego Veteran’s Association and member of the United Veteran Council of San Diego where he would speak out for gays in the military. In 1986 he would work with F. Stanley Berry and Dr. Brad Truax to coordinate the B-Safe campaign, the first outreach to the gay community by the CDC to test for Hep B. The eighties would also see John test positive for HIV. Undeterred John would keep advocating and fighting, being involved in Strength For The Journey San Diego, a retreat for persons living with AIDS, National Leather Association, AIDS Art Alive, Kids Art Therapy, Art Of Pride and was a Peer Advocate for Being Alive. John would become an Honoree for the Gay Center’s Veterans Wall of Honor in 2014 and has won a Special Commendation from City Council member Toni Atkins for Volunteer of the Year.

Date: 2016-05-16

Jerilyn Dilno Interview


Description: Ms. Jeri Dilno was born in San Diego in 1936. She graduated from Point Loma High School in 1954 and attended San Diego State University. She left SDSU in 1958 and joined the Air Force, but received an undesirable discharge in 1961 as part of an investigation of eight individuals suspected of being gay. Ms. Dilno was the only one who fought the accusations and requested a hearing; her discharge was later changed to honorable, but the experience prompted a lifelong commitment to the advancement of LGBT people. She helped found the first organized Pride March in 1975, was the first female Executive Director of The Center, from 1975 to 1977, and attended the International Conference on Women in 1977 as an openly lesbian delegate. She chaired The Center board from 1978 to 1980, and campaigned against the Briggs Initiative. Ms. Dilno was president of the San Diego Democratic Club from 1987 to 1991, co-chaired the LGBT State Democratic Caucus from 1989 to 1991 and was a delegate at the National Democratic Convention in 1988, 1992, and 2000. See article at:

Date: 2015-11-18

Bob Lehman Interview


Description: Recorded as part of the Lambda Archives of San Diego’s 20th anniversary.

Additional Description: Bob Lehman is one of the nation’s preeminent military veterans representing the GLBT community. Lehman is also known as the founder of the popular nightclub Bourbon Street, which he opened in 1997 as a base for military and gay rights activism. In 2001, he launched San Diego’s chapter of American Veterans for Equal Rights, and in 2003 he became the first openly gay veteran appointed to the San Diego County Veteran’s Advisory Board. In these capacities, he focused on ending discrimination against gays in the military and spearheaded efforts to provide wheelchairs to low-income, disabled veterans. In 2006, Lehman founded the Stonewall Citizen’s Patrol in response to the brutal gay bashing of six men at the July Pride Festival. Lehman and his partner, Tom Felkner, recently began San Diego News Group, Inc., a GLBT community print and Internet media company.

Date: 2007-11-27

Norman Braxton Interview


Description: Norman found his way to San Diego while serving in the United States Navy in the late 1960’s. After leaving the Navy he used his love for Diana Ross to find a job at the Showbiz Supper Club, becoming the first African American to perform in San Diego as a professional female impersonator. Norman recollects his career in the San Diego supper club scene, the early hisory of the Imperial Court and his role within it, the AIDS crisis of the 80’s and his experiences as a gay black male in the San Diego LGBT community for the past 45 years.

Date: 2016-01-28

Al Smithson Interview


Description: Al Smithson’s contributions to the LGBT community comprise a litany of firsts. After graduating from the University of North Carolina At Chapel Hill and serving 8 years in the United States Navy, he went on to be a founding member of the Metropolitan Community Church of San Diego in 1970, he has served on its board of directors and as its longtime vice-moderator. He is a founding member and former chairman of the board of The San Diego LGBT Community Center, a founding member of the Greater San Diego Business Association, and a charter member and former vice-president of the San Diego Democratic Club. A widely respected attorney, Smithson’s early legal work in the LGBT community formed the foundation for a unique range of services that became known as “Gay Family Law.” Smithson has come to the aid of a host of LGBT organizations through the years, guiding them through arcane red tape to achieve 501c3 status, creating bylaws, assisting with the acquisition of real property and aiding in LGBT adoptions. For many years, Smithson authored a legal-advice column, “The Philly Lawyer,” and wrote and presented the Public Broadcasting program “Gay People and the Law”.

Date: 2015-01-27