Lige Clarke

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Lige Clarke at the Gay Pride festivities in New York City of 1972. Photo by Jack Nichols

Elijah Hadyn "Lige" Clarke (February 22, 1942 − February 10, 1975) was an American LGBT activist and journalist. Together with his partner Jack Nichols, Clarke created and wrote "The Homosexual Citizen" as a continuation to their original column written for The Mattachine Review beginning around 1965, however, the name "Homosexual Citizen" came from a newsletter originally written by Dr. Lilli Vincenz in the 1950s and then continued as the official newsletter of the Washington D.C. Mattachine Society. "The Homosexual Citizen", running in Screw magazine, was the first regular LGBT-interest column printed in a non-LGBT publication. As a result of the success of their column, Nichols and Clarke became known as the "most famous gay couple in America"--making them the first and only "Super-Stars" the gay community had ever known. In 1969, building on the success of the column, the two talked publisher Al Goldstein into publishing the first weekly national homosexual magazine called "Gay".

On February 10, 1975, Clarke was shot and killed near Vera Cruz, Mexico while driving toward Veracruz with his traveling companion, Charlie Black. For some reason, Black was only wounded while Lige Clarke was shot through the chest multiple times.The duo was cut off the road by a dark sedan and without warning they were gunned down. Black played dead and later crawled toward the road and caught the attention of a passing bus that transported him to a First Aid station in Tuxpam, Mexico.

Lige was traveling from Cocoa Beach, Florida to Veracruz, Mexico in one of his many round-the-world adventures. He was traveling with a man named Charlie Black who he and Jack Nichols had met who worked for the United States Post Office in the Cocoa Beach Branch. Since Charlie owned a Ford Pinto and offered to drive, that was all the impetus that Lige seemed to need.

When they crossed the border into Mexico, the Mexican customs held both Clarke and Black longer than what seemed reasonable and they seemed unusually obsessed with the rough-draft of the newest book he and Jack Nichols had been working on together, Men's Liberation: A New Definition of Masculinity, along with the other books that he and Jack had already done (I have more fun with you than anybody and Roommates Can't Always Be Lovers). It's possible that the Mexican government thought that, after checking Lige Clarke's background and discovering that he formerly held one of the United States' highest security clearances as a military adjunct to the Secretary of Defense during his service in the army, that he had been sent to Mexico as an "agitator" under the guise of a gay rights activist.

Late in his life, Jack Nichols pondered whether the men who killed his soul mate might have worked for the Mexican Federales and killed Lige because they suspected he worked for the CIA and in other ponderings, he wondered whether Charlie Black might have worked for either the CIA or for the FBI and had in some way been involved with Jack's father, who was with the FBI and who had, many years before, threatened his life because he was a gay rights activist.

After Lige's funeral in March 1975, (around April), Jack got a visit from Charlie Black who explained the circumstances of the murder. The circumstances he described did not match what Charlie had written to Shelbianna Rhein (Lige's sister) during his recovery.

Almost a year after Lige's murder, Jack received a postcard from Charlie dated January 18, 1976 which read:

"Jack, I trapped a butterfly and held it in my hand. I was blinded to its beauty as its wings struggled to escape. A ray of sun caught my eye and set the captive free. As it flew away it sprinkled its secrets on me."

Jack wrote in his memoirs, "What is Charlie trying to say?"

The card was postmarked "San Francisco" but no one has seen or heard from Charlie since.

Jack's friend, Stephanie Donald, in one of many discussions with Nichols prior to his death in 2005, discussed Lige's death and Charlie Black with Jack. Nichols had for years wished to seek out Black and try to interrogate him more fully about what happened that night but he was both anxious and hesitant to resolve the matter, but felt sure that what happened had something to do with his father and felt that Charlie had been sent to destroy his life. At other times, he was just as sure that the murder had been carried out by Mexican authorities simply because they had discovered that Lige was gay when they searched his belongings at the Brownsville, Texas-Matamoros, Mexico border crossing.

References[edit]

  • Bullough, Vern L. (2002). Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context. Routledge. ISBN 1-56023-193-9.
  • Donald, Stephanie (2013) LGBT-Today.com

External links[edit]