A pair of historically important letters from the pioneering politician, detailing his life as a gay man while serving in the Navy.
Two Autograph Signed Letters
"If things work out as I want I may be a happily married man by the end of this year. 'Gay marriage,' that is."
Two extraordinary letters from Harvey Milk to his Navy buddy Patrick Mormon. Milk came from a Navy family and was commissioned in 1951 during the Korean War. He served as a diving officer aboard the submarine rescue ship Kittiwake until 1955, when he was discharged under what were long seen as mysterious circumstances.
The first letter is undated (and the postmark is illegible), but notes "221 days to go" which would suggest ca. 1954. It finds Milk already imaging life after the Navy:
"I'm just starting 10 days leave (in 5 min.) and I'm on my way to Dallas Texas to see someone. If things work out as I want I may be a happily married man by the end of this year. 'Gay marriage,' that is. I think I wrote you about him – well we wrote each other and before long he wanted me to come to Texas – here I come. Will let you know how things work out."
The second (very short) letter, however, alerts Mormon that Milk had been "turned in." Although Milk was honorably discharged, it was long rumored that in fact he was pushed out of the service when his sexual orientation was discovered — a fact supported by these letters: "I've been turned in by Johnny Teynel and Marty 'Kid' [illegible] and a third party." Milk notably leaves his full name and return address off both this letter and envelope.
Following his service, Milk did live for seven years in Dallas with his domestic partner Joe Campbell. After they broke up, Milk moved to San Francisco and opened his famed camera shop. In 1977 he ran and won a seat on the San Francisco board of supervisors — the first openly gay politician to be elected to office in California (and one of the first anywhere) — but was assassinated after less than a year in office by his former opponent, Dan White. He was wearing his Navy diver's belt buckle when he died. In 2016 Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced a ship would be named in honor of Milk.
A moving pair of letters from one of the most important figures in the struggle for gay rights.
(NY, NY and Norfolk, VA): n.p, (1954). 9.25'' x 6.25''. Two holograph letters penned on plain onion skin, both with original envelopes. One approx. 240 words; second approx. 20. Each folded for mailing. Else clean and sharp.
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