Oral history interview with Richard Davis, 1948--

Title

Oral history interview with Richard Davis, 1948--

Description

Oral history with Richard Davis, who shares his remembrances from over thirty years of active participation in the Washington DC LGBT community, including his work with the Gay Rights National Lobby and the Right to Privacy Foundation, competing as a swimmer in five consecutive Gay Games, and singing in the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington DC.

Date

29 October, 2015

Rights

The interview belongs to the Rainbow History Project. The RHP release was used and all rights belong to RHP.

Coverage

1970s to present.

Richard Allen Davis was born in St. Paul Minnesota in 1948 and was raised in what he describes as a “nominally Methodist” family in the Twin Cities area. Davis accepted that he was a gay man in 1973 while he was attending law school at the University of Minnesota. By the summer of 1973 was publicly “out”.

After completing law school Davis volunteered with Minnesota gay rights activist Stephen Endean and was active in the campaign to support a 1978 ordinance prohibiting discrimination against gays and lesbians in St. Paul. When the voters of St. Paul that ordinance in a referendum Endean became convinced that state level progress was no longer possible in Minnesota. Endean moved to DC to become the Director of the Gay Rights National Lobby (GRNL), hiring Davis to work for him as the head of Right to Privacy Foundation - an organization tasked with performing research and analysis in support of the Gay Rights National Lobby’s efforts. Steve Endean was forced out of the Directorship in 1983, and Davis left the Right to Privacy Foundation shortly afterward. He remained in Washington DC, working for the Library of Congress’ Congressional Research Service until his retirement in 2010.

Davis was introduced to DC gay community by Endean, who had formed many connections with the community through his work as an activist. Davis quickly became an active participant in the community socially. Davis has been a member of several Washington-area gay social organizations, including The Washington Bridge (an Asian/Non-Asian gay men’s social club that later became Asians and Friends Washington) from 1983 to 1992, and DC Lambda Squares (a gay and lesbian Contra Dancing/ Country and Western Line Dancing group) from the late 1980s until 1999. Davis has also been an active member of Bet Mishpachah (an LGBT Synagogue in the Dupont Circle area) and All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Mount Pleasant.

Davis was involved in competitive swimming from 1970 to 1999, starting in his junior year of college. After moving to Washington DC he joined the DC Aquatics Club (DCAC), an all gay US Masters Swimming team that competed in local and national events. With the DCAC, Davis competed in the Gay Games in 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994, and 1998 winning two medals: a bronze medal in the 100 Yard Mixed Medley Relay in 1982 and a gold medal in the Individual 200 Yard Breaststroke in 1986.

In 2007 Davis auditioned for and was accepted as a member of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington DC. He remains a part of the organization to this day.

Davis relates a number of remembrances from his time in these groups, especially his experiences competing in the Gay Games where he met and befriended swimmer Jay Frisette who went on to be elected to the Arlington County Council.

Davis shares his memories of gay bars and social centers in Washington DC in the 80s and 90s, including the Lambda Rising bookstore, Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse, The Lost and Found, Tracks, The Fraternity House (later Omega), and the Chesapeake House.

Other topics discussed include the anxiety of the early days of the AIDS epidemic and how it affected every part of the gay community of the time and the ways that he believes the LGBT community of Washington DC has changed since the 1980s.


Interviewer

Edward Benfield

Interviewee

Richard Davis, 1948--

Transcription

No.

Files

Citation

“Oral history interview with Richard Davis, 1948--,” Rainbow History Project Digital Collections, accessed August 23, 2017, http://rainbowhistory.omeka.net/items/show/4939497.