Honoring Bill Nelson’s 65th Birthday

Story by Mike Anglin

William H. (“Bill”) Nelson

March 7, 1949   –   February 19, 1990

March 7th, 2014 would have been the 65th birthday of Bill Nelson, one of the leading figures in the rich history of the Dallas GLBT community.  Bill was born March 7, 1949, and grew up in Dallas, attending W. T. White High School, where he later taught.

Bill’s first concrete step in this process came later, in 1979, when he appeared before the executive committee of theDallas Gay Political Caucus to urge that organization to fully support the first National March on Washington.  He and his partner, Terry Tebedo, publicized the event in Dallas and generated a list of Dallas residents who would commit to attend the October 14, 1979, March on Washington.In 1979, Bill Nelson, a teacher and coach at W.T. White High School in Dallas, attended a public “gay rights rally” in Lee Park.  A photograph of the event was published in the Dallas newspaper, and a student at W.T. White recognized his teacher as one of the people attending the rally and showed the photo to the high school principal.  Dallas Independent School District attempted to reprimand Bill for this public display, but he refused to accept the censure, and the school district ultimately backed down.  Their action only accelerated Bill’s growth into a principal leadership role in the gay rights movement in Dallas.

In 1983, Bill and Terry, along with other supporters, created a new umbrella organization for the gay community named The Foundation for Human Understanding (eventually to become Resource Center).  FHU was designed to be the parent organization for a number of groups, programs, and smaller organizations affiliated with the Dallas Gay Alliance/DGLA.  FHU purchased the MCC Church building at Reagan and Brown Streets in Dallas and still serves as headquarters for Resource Center.In 1981, Bill and Terry pulled together a number of friends and created an organization that would sponsor a citywide social event for the gay community.  The new organization was named “Razzle Dazzle Dallas.”  It held its first gala later that year at the Hall of State in Fair Park.  That same year they, along with friends, William Waybourn and Craig Spaulding, opened a business at the corner of Cedar Springs and Throckmorton called the “Crossroads Market,” which became as much of a community meeting place as a commercial book and sundries store.

As president of the then Dallas Gay Alliance in the early 1980s, Bill helped open the city’s first LGBT community center storefront location on Cedar Springs — later to become a clinic for an HIV population left underserved by county and government institutions.  In fact, the clinic today carries his and his partner Terry Tebedo’s names as the Nelson-Tebedo Community Clinic.  He was also among the first in Texas to sound the alarm about AIDS and help educate individuals to avoid the transmission of HIV, turning the Alliance from a purely political organization to an agency delivering real services, including food, clothing and financial assistance.  These services continue today under the auspices of Resource Center, and through other cooperating organizations like the AIDS Services of Dallas and the AIDS Arms Network.

In the fall of 1985 Bill became the third recipient of the Black Tie Dinner’s “Humanitarian of the Year Award” (known today as the Ray Kuchling Award), and in 1989 the Texas Senate honored Bill for his many accomplishments as a community leader.

Bill’s many accomplishments are being now being documented by The Dallas Way and an extensive collection of Bill Nelson memorabilia is now being collected and preserved so future generations of the GLBT community will be able to study and be inspired by this pioneer of the Dallas GLBT community.Sadly, Bill and Terry didn’t survive the AIDS epidemic they both so valiantly fought to end, but they paved the way for many others to hold out until more effective medications were discovered and incorporated into the treatment of people with HIV.