MALCOLM BOYD, American Episcopal Priest and author, was born (d: 2015); Author of more than thirty books, Boyd began as a producer in Hollywood, working with screen legend Mary Pickford. In 1951, he entered the seminary and became a priest. Malcolm became identified by the media as “the Coffeehouse Priest” and “the Espresso Priest.”
Also in 1959 came Malcolm’s first major encounter with the emerging civil rights movement. He was asked to be the convocation speaker for Religious Emphasis Week at Louisiana State University. In his opening address he made a clear, unequivocal statement opposing racial segregation. He was later invited to speak at an Educational Spring Conference in Louisiana under the sponsorship of the Student Christian Council of L.S.U. But when the conference was abruptly cancelled, the New York Times reported the incident under the headline: NORTHERN CLERIC BARRED IN SOUTH.
This was the beginning of a decade of active involvement for Boyd in the civil rights movement. In 1965 his book of prayers, Are You Running with Me, Jesus? was published. At the time no one knew it would become a runaway national bestseller with one million copies in print and translation into a number of different languages. Malcolm gave many public readings from the book accompanied by musicians including Oscar Brown, Jr., Vince Guaraldi and guitarist Charlie Byrd. (Columbia Records issued two albums of Boyd and Byrd working together).
In 1966 Malcolm found himself in a major media event when he read his prayers (and engaged in a dialogue with audiences on faith issues) in the famed San Francisco nightclub the hungry i. Dick Gregory headlined the bill and it ran for a full month. The New York Times Magazine printed this observation: “Malcolm Boyd is a latter-day Luther or a more worldly Wesley, trying to move religion out of ‘ghettoized’ churches into the streets where people are.”
On February 6, 1968, Malcolm was with Martin Luther King, Jr., for the last time in a nonviolent protest against the Vietnam War. They had gathered in Washington, D.C. in response to a call from Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam. All stood together inside Arlington Cemetery, directly below the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
In 1977 Malcolm came out publicly as a Gay man. A news magazine described how many had viewed him: “blunt, restless, eloquent and above all, open.” Yet it noted the brooding presence of a mask in his public life: “He kept one aspect of his life deeply private: his homosexuality.”
White Crane published A Prophet in His Own Land: A Malcolm Boyd Reader and re-released Are You Running With Me Jesus? in a new edition. Malcolm lived in Los Angeles, California with his long-time partner and husband, the Gay activist and author Mark Thompson. Boyd served on the Advisory Board of White Crane Institute and was a frequent contributor to White Crane, the Gay Wisdom and Culture magazine. Malcolm passed peacefully in February 2015 at the age of 92. Mark followed about a little over a year later in 2016. Both were great friends, advisors and colleagues to this writer and to White Crane and it’s mission. We loved them and they loved us well. I miss them deeply.