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Eldon Murray:
A Senior Citizen in the Halls of Fame

By Bill Meunier

Eldon Murray has received many local and national honors for his work on behalf of gays and lesbians both in Milwaukee and nationally, but the Milwaukee activist is especially pleased with his latest award: induction into the Milwaukee County Senior Citizen Hall of Fame. Murray may be the first gay Senior ever to be included in a community wide Senior Citizen Hall of Fame because of his gay activism.

To Eldon Murray, the accolade means more than having his picture and some nice words on a wall. He sees the award, which is given by a diverse five-member panel as recognition that the lesbian, gay. bisexual and transgender community is valued and accepted.

Milwaukee County Executive Tom Ament underscored that during Friday's induction ceremony when he said, "Eldon's dedication of his life to activism and service on the part of the gay and lesbian population and now in his later years to their aging issues has clearly benefited the Milwaukee community." Ament is not alone in realizing the importance of Eldon Murray's work.

In 1998, One Institute and the International Gay and Lesbian Archives named him as one of only 31 pioneers of the gay movement.

Murray himself downplays his role. "All I ever did was see a need and try to meet it," he says. That may be true, but when you work to meet the needs of others for over 30 years, you establish a rich legacy. The foundations of that legacy began in the 1960's.

Recognizing that few gays could be open about their sexual orientation, Murray began to raise his voice. A Stockbroker by profession, he became an articulate advocate of equality. "I was 39 years old and established in my business," he says. "My clients didn't care as long as I made money for them. I could stand up and be openly gay when few people could."

Riding on the tide of Gay Pride inspired by Stonewall riots, Murray helped to organize Wisconsin's first major gay organization, GPU, Gay People's Union. Through GPU, he was able to launch a remarkable string of successful and innovative projects that left an indelible mark on LGBT life and culture both locally and nationally.

Previous People Features from the GayToday Archive:
Gay Pioneers Celebrating Jim Kepner's Life at Hollywood Event

Barbara Gittings: Co-Grand Marshall in New York

Dick Michals: The Original Mr. Advocate

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Among those projects was one of America's first national gay publications, GPU News. Murray founded, published and edited the glossy covered magazine, which featured news, commentary, poetry and fiction written by many if not most of the leading gay and lesbian thinkers of the 1970's. It brought their thoughts to and helped to shape an awakening consciousness for thousands of readers from coast to coast.

Murray also worked the electronic media. In 1970, on the air pro-Gay broadcasts were considered unthinkable, but Eldon Murray convinced a local radio station to air "Gay Perspectives," one of America's first such regularly scheduled radio programs. His success inspired other communities to follow suit.

In 1974, Murray saw the needs of gay men affected by an outbreak of syphilis. He established one of the first health clinics devoted to gay men, the GPU STD Clinic. The clinic now operates independently and provide free services to hundreds gays and straights every month.

In the 1980's he focused his attention on the looming AIDS crisis and was instrumental in raising money for Wisconsin's first AIDS service organization.

Now in 70, Eldon Murray is still going strong. . Again he is giving voice to those who have not been able to find one of their own. His latest focus is the well being of Seniors many of whom are still closeted. That voice calls our attention to the isolation and unique problems faced by our elderly.

In 1994, he founded the Milwaukee chapter of SAGE, Senior Action in a Gay Environment. In typical Eldon Murray fashion, he used the Hall of Fame induction ceremony to make his point about the plight of gay seniors. Murray cited surveys that show only 13% of Milwaukee's LGBT seniors use the County's services for the elderly versus 45% of County's Seniors as a whole. Murray called for an outreach project to "to reach that overlooked and under served part of the community."

No one is betting that just as he has done so many times in the past, Eldon Murray won't find a way to meet that need as well

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