Bill Cornell

Bill Cornell pic

October 24, 1927 – July 6, 1961

Born in Detroit, William John Cornell attended Wayne University and, as one of city’s premier theatrical press agents in the 1950s, represented various stars when they visited the Motor City, including Ethel Merman and Marlena Dietrich.  Cornell and his partner Peter Prass were killed when a fire gutted their Chicago Boulevard apartment.

Detroit Free Press, July 7, 1961

Sally Mae McCoy

Sally Mae McCoy pic

January 16, 1927 – March 31, 2002

Born in Royston, Georgia, Sally Mae McCoy moved to Detroit following World War II and attended Fleming Beauty School in the 1950s.  In addition to teaching cosmetology and operating a hair care business, she worked for 20 years as a custodian with the Detroit Public Schools.  Rev. Renee McCoy was among her five children.

Between The Lines, April 11, 2002

Del Thusius

Del Thusius pic

May 23, 1927 – March 26, 2013

Dolore “Del” Thusius earned his Bachelor’s in music from Valaraiso University and his Master’s in education from Western Michigan University.  Thusius taught choir at Portage Central High School from 1955 to 1983 and directed annual musicals.  He shared a home in Kalamazoo with his partner of 48 years David Reichard.

Kalamazoo Gazette, March 23, 2013

Henry Messer

Henry Messer pic

September 22, 1927 – February 18, 2014

From 1976 to 2014, Dearborn Heights neurosurgeon Dr. Henry Messer was a tireless advocate for gay rights in Michigan, active in the Association for Suburban People and the Michigan Organization for Human Rights.  In 1991, Messer played an instrumental role in establishing the Triangle Foundation, which later became Equality Michigan.

Between The Lines, February 20, 2014

Marion Dunlap Whitman

April 17, 1927 – April 18, 1986

Raised as James Dunlap, Marion Dunlap Whitman worked as a sewing machine operator in the late 1950s and was one of numerous crossing-dressing African American Detroiters entrapped on the streets by undercover vice.  After serving 18 months in the State Prison of Southern Michigan, she moved to San Francisco.

Bay Area Reporter, May 15, 1986