Anthony Bernard Duncan Mayes (October 10, 1929 – October 23, 2014) was a British broadcaster, university dean and author who founded America's first suicide prevention hotline. He lived in San Francisco.
After studying classical civilizations at Cambridge University, Mayes worked first as a high school teacher of Latin, Greek and history. He was then ordained as an Anglican priest. Mayes emigrated to the United States in 1958 and became an Episcopal worker-priest and director of a student house attached to Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village and New York University (NYU). He then moved to the Diocese of California where he held a parish near San Francisco. While in San Francisco, Mayes founded San Francisco Suicide Prevention, later used as a model throughout the United States. Openly gay himself, Mayes organized a sexuality study center for the Episcopal Diocese of California. This ministry, originally known as the Parsonage, was awarded the Episcopal Jubilee citation and later evolved into the present-day Oasis organization. In 1992 he abandoned religion and became an atheist, eventually originating the concept of what he described as 'Soupism' meaning that all things and beings are composed only of energy and are continuously changing into other beings and things.In 2012, despite his atheism he was later honored by the San Francisco Night Ministry and both the California Assembly and Senate for his public service.
Beginning in 1958 he worked as a journalist for the BBC and other networks, and in 1968 he helped organize the public broadcasting system in the United States, becoming first the founder of KQED-FM and Executive Vice President of KQED TV in San Francisco, then a co-founder and first working chairman of NPR National Public Radio. He then became a consultant for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in Washington, D.C., advising universities and communities across the country. During this time he wrote, produced and performed in a variety of books and dramatizations such as Lord of the Rings, Homer's Odyssey, etc. Invited in 1984 to join the English faculty of the University of Virginia,(Uva), Charlottesville, Virginia, in 1991 he was appointed assistant dean in the College of Arts and Sciences, and then chair of the Communications department, finally founding the Program in Media Studies. He was awarded the Sullivan/Harrison award for mentoring and received a commendation by the University Seven Society. On retiring from the University in 1999 he published his autobiography 'Escaping God's Closet' (University Press of Virginia) which received the national Lambda award for religion and spirituality, and in 2000 University of Virginia alumni named the Bernard D. Mayes award after him. Mayes has been included in Who's Who in America for 1999, Who's Who in Religion, and Who's Who in Entertainment. His papers are to be found in the National Public Broadcasting Archives of the University of Maryland, the Special Collections of the University of Virginia, and in the Library of Congress.
In 1991 he co-founded the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual Faculty, Staff and Graduate Student Association at the University of Virginia, known as UVa Pride, and the Serpentine Society. On his retirement in 1999, the University of Virginia's LGBT alumni association, the Serpentine Society, gave Mayes a lifetime achievement award for his accomplishments and for his contributions to UVA in particular. Each year since then, the Serpentine Society has honored a distinguished graduate of UVA with a Bernard D. Mayes Award for service and leadership in the LGBT community. Mayes also received a lifetime achievement award from San Francisco Suicide Prevention. In 2009 he returned to San Francisco where he now lives. In 2010 he was given a prestigious Jefferson Award for Public Service, most notably for his suicide prevention work still used as a model nationwide. He last resided in San Francisco.
Radio adaptations and commentaries
Mayes's dramatic works include: Homer's Odyssey, the Agamemnon of Aeschylus and Plato's Phaedo, each adapted from the original Greek; The Lord of the Rings a 1979 radio series in which he played the part of Gandalf; and several of Dickens' novels. Mayes received financial support from the National Endowment for the Arts for a dramatization of the life of Thomas Jefferson. He has also recorded several books for Blackstone Audio Books and was often heard in The Black Mass, Eric Bauersfeld's series of dramatic adaptations for Berkeley's FM station KPFA.
An illustrated collection of Mayes's lighter broadcast pieces was published in 1985 under the title This is Bernard Mayes in San Francisco. Mayes has also written numerous articles on topics in history, religion and the media.
Escaping God's Closet
In 2001, the University of Virginia Press published Bernard Mayes's autobiography, Escaping God's Closet: The Revelations of a Queer Priest, which won the national Lambda Literary Award in the spirituality category.
The book tells the story of Mayes's life, culminating in his renunciation of both the priesthood and of religion. After life in the U.K. during the Depression and WWII, Mayes describes his emigration to the U.S. and the founding of several influential organizations, most notably the first suicide prevention service in the U.S. (still operational); the non-commercial radio station KQED-FM in San Francisco; the network NPR (National Public Radio); and The Parsonage (an Episcopal-gay think tank). Along the way he gives an account of gay life in San Francisco during the period of the Flower Children and the assassination of Harvey Milk, reporting around the United States for the BBC, and finally his academic life and work in the University of Virginia. To explain his apostasy, Mayes articulates a philosophy that regards existence as a "soup" (he later dubbed the philosophy "Soupism" in lectures and elsewhere). Mayes argues in Escaping God's Closet that the state of the universe and our planet, together with the history and working of the human body, have now been satisfactorily explained by scientific methods of observation and experience to show that all things are assembled and come into being through the unending interaction, exchange and recyclement of preexisting energy.
According to Mayes, this implies that all things are interdependent and subject to constant, endless change. Mayes's philosophy of "soup" further asserts that there can be neither a true beginning nor a true end of existence, and that belief in supernatural forces, gods, spirits and the soul is false, being the product of human imagination.
Mayes also argues that the interdependence, interaction and endless exchange within existence necessitate a particular ethic. This ethic is derived from the further belief that love for others, egalitarian government, universal education and respect for the planet and all that live upon it are critical for the continued health, well being and survival of the human species.
Mayes died on October 23, 2014, of pneumonia.
- "Bernard Mayes, KQED-FM's first general manager, dies at 85". KQED.org. 2014-10-24. Retrieved 2014-10-25.
- Whiting, Sam (2012-04-28). "Bernard Mayes to be honored as lifeline to the suicidal". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2014-10-25.
- "KQED-FM's first manager: Launching NPR took a lot of doing". KQED.org. 2011-05-04. Retrieved 2014-10-25.
- "A Life History of Bernard Mayes". University of Virginia. Retrieved 2014-10-25.
- Bernard Mayes's personal web site at the University of Virginia
- Escaping God's Closet (limited preview at Google Book Search
- Soupism website