Ray Johnson

Ray Johnson pic

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

Frederick Weston

December 9, 1946 – October 21, 2020

Born in Memphis, Tennessee and raised by his mother in Detroit, Frederick Weston attended the High School of Commerce and went on to earn his Bachelor’s from Ferris State.  In his 20s, he moved to New York, where he worked low-paying jobs while relishing the gay scene and creating an array of visual arts.  A long-term survivor of AIDS, Weston gained recognition for his artistic genius only late in life.

POZ, October 29, 2020

New York Times, November 18, 2020

Peggy Sauer

Peggy Sauer pic

March 2, 1925 – March 21, 1986

A 1944 graduate of Southeastern High School in Detroit, potter and sculptor Margaret Elizabeth “Peggy” Sauer earned her BFA at Cranbrook Academy and her Masters at Wayne State.  As one of the pioneering “Damsels of Design,” she worked as a designer of automobile interiors for General Motors from 1955 to 1962.  Sauer later taught and shared a home in Harper Woods with her partner Julie Sabit.

Detroit Free Press, March 24, 1986

How Margaret “Peg” Sauer Inspired the World

Walter Brown

Walter Brown pic

September 19, 1938 – September 10, 1998

Walter Leroy Brown of Erie, formerly of Southgate, grew up in Ohio and as an employee of National Amusement later worked as a manager of cinemas in Ann Arbor and Detroit.  In the mid-1960s, he served as “mother of the bride” for a same-sex wedding held at the Park Lane Apartments across from the Diplomat Lounge in Detroit.  Brown died during heart surgery at age 59.

Monroe Evening News, September 12, 1998

Gregory Williams

Gregory Williams pic

April 22, 1948 – December 18, 1978

Muskegon native Gregory Don Williams graduated with the class of 1966 from Muskegon Catholic High School and subsequently attended Michigan State University and Wayne State University.  In June 1972, he took part in Michigan’s first-ever pride celebration in Detroit.  At the time of his death, he was employed with a Wall Street brokerage firm in New York.

Muskegon Chronicle, December 20, 1978

Evelyn Fisher

Evelyn Fischer pic

April 4, 1941 – December 29, 2020

Evelyn Joseph Fisher attended the University Liggett School in Grosse Pointe Woods and earned her M.D. from the Wayne State University Medical School.  As senior specialist for infectious disease at Henry Ford Hospital, Fisher saw her first patient with AIDS in 1982.  A year later Fisher was instrumental in helping to found Wellness Networks to serve the needs of people with HIV in southeast Michigan.

Detroit News, January 16, 2021

Between The Lines, February 4, 2021

Clifford Kelley

Clifford Kelley pic

September 28, 1937 – September 2, 1985

A native of Dayton, Ohio, Clifford William Kelley worked as a regional sale representative for Detroit Edison and was involved in Wayne County politics.  While separated from his wife, he was found murdered in his Royal Oak apartment.  Known as “John” in the gay world, Kelley was last seen leaving an adult bookstore near Woodward and Six Mile in Detroit with another male.

Detroit Free Press, September 6, 1985

Cruise, November 13, 1985

Craig Economy

Craig Economy pic

September 17, 1952 – November 2, 1996

Detroit resident Craig Economy grew up in Dearborn, attended Dearborn High School, and pursued studies in Vermont and Arizona.  On returning to Michigan, he worked as a popular hairdresser at Jacobsen’s and other salons.  A longtime survivor of HIV, Economy was active in Friends Alliance, the AIDS Interfaith Network, and other organizations.  He died from AIDS-related complications at age 47.

Cruise, November 20, 1996

Kelli Hand

Kelli Hand pic

September 15, 1964 – August 3, 2021

Kelli Maria Hand, known professionally as K-Hand, grew up in Detroit where she attended Henry Ford High School.  In the 1980s, she discovered the dance scene at the Paradise Garage nightclub in New York and became hooked on the music.  Before long she landed gigs as a DJ, including at the Detroit gay venue Zipper’s, and came to achieve international acclaim as the “first lady of Detroit techno.”

Between The Lines [online only], August 5, 2021

New York Times, August 9, 2021

Remembering Detroit Techno Trailblazer Kelli Hand

Joseph James

Joseph James pic 2

March 27, 1950 – March 17, 2006

James Stewart James was born in Detroit and graduated with the class of 1969 from Mumford High School.  He later earned his Associates degree from Oakland Community College and was employed at General Motors for 25 years.  James was active in Men of Color, Project Survival, and Detroit Black Gay Pride, for many years helping to plan the annual Hotter Than July! picnic in Palmer Park.

Between The Lines, March 30, 2006