October 16, 1927 – January 13, 1995
Detroit native Raymond Edward “Ray” Johnson graduated from Cass Tech High School and took art classes at the Ox-Bow School in Saugatuck. He later studied at Black Mountain College in North Carolina before moving to New York City in the late 1940s. Johnson became an acclaimed collagist and performance artist. He relocated to Long Island at age 41 and ended his life at age 67.
New York Times, January 19, 1995
How to Draw a Bunny
July 23, 1927 – March 5, 1998
Originally from Illinois, Frank Lloyd Bigger Jr. worked as manager and bartender at Joe Covello’s in Lansing from 1975 to 1991. He went on to manage JB’s Saloon for three years before helping launch the Esquire Bar in 1994. The Lansing Association for Human Rights recognized Bigger with a Prism Award in 1995. Following his death in a car accident, an annual euchre charity event was named in his honor.
Between The Lines, April 16, 1998
January 22, 1927 – June 1, 1989
Fredrica Kathryn Bartz graduated from Flint Central High School in 1943. After divorcing her husband, she received her B.A. from the Flint College of the University of Michigan. She later earned her M.A. at UM-Ann Arbor and her Ph.D. from MSU. She taught English at UM-Flint for 22 years, and at her death was chair of the department. Bartz shared a home in Montrose with her companion Mary Ellen Raleigh.
Memo, June 26, 1989
September 16, 1927 – October 2, 2005
Union Lake resident Henry Charles Trent served in the U.S. military and operated Trent’s Prime Rib Beef Market in Detroit prior to opening Menjo’s in Detroit with Mike Crawford and Joe LaRosa. Trent also owned the Prudential Health Club in Detroit.
Detroit Free Press, October 4, 2005
March 14, 1927 – August 23, 2013
A suburban housewife and mother, Virginia Dolores Szymanski inherited the Royal Show Bar from her step-father in the early 1960s. While she owned and operated the Detroit bar, it became a popular gathering place for black sissies, black gay men, and black drag queens.
A.H. Peters Funeral Home
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
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
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
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 of 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
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