JIM FOSTER, a social and political activist, died on this date. A native of New York, Foster entered into military service after his graduation from university, however he received a dishonorable discharge in 1959 after it was discovered that he was Gay.
Moving to San Francisco shortly after his discharge, he became involved in the Gay Rights movement in 1964 when he was a founding member of the Society for Individual Rights. Quickly rising to become leader of the movement in San Francisco, he got involved in local politics and in 1971 founded the Alice B. Toklas Memorial Democratic Club. That same year he was appointed a delegate for presidential candidate George McGovern at the Democratic National Convention where, on July 14, 1972, he gave a speech on national television calling for the Democratic Party to adopt a Gay Rights plank to their platform, the first time an openly Gay delegate had ever spoken at a national convention.
In 1973 he turned down a request to endorse first-time political candidate Harvey Milk during Milk’s first campaign for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, ultimately beginning a feud between the two leaders. Milk was elected to the Board in 1977 and following his assassination a year later, Foster’s name was included on Milk’s tape recorded “enemies list” of those he felt should not be appointed as his replacement. In 1977, Foster went to Florida where he was active in the unsuccessful campaign against Anita Bryant’s campaign to repeal the Gay Rights ordinance in Dade County. In 1980 he served as Northern California chairman for Edward Kennedy’s unsuccessful presidential campaign.
In 1985 he was appointed to the San Francisco Health Commission, serving until his death from AIDS at the age of 55. The ashes of both he and his longtime partner, Lawrence John “Larry” Ludwig, were placed in the columbarium at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.