|Birth: ||Jul. 19, 1939|
|Death: ||Feb. 20, 1990|
San Diego County
Mr. Robert "Jess" Jessop was one of the group of original founders of the San Diego LGBT Center and the Lesbian and Gay Historical Society of San Diego. A visionary and an activist, he recognized the needs of the people around him and created ways to provide for them. Frequently signing his letters "Yours In The Struggle," Mr. Jessop is remembered for his political organization and community devotion.
Jess Jessop was born in 1939 in Baltimore. He served in Vietnam as part of the Marine Combat Unit, where he refused to accept the Silver Star — the third highest combat decoration — because of his opposition to the war. He moved to San Diego in 1969 and enrolled at San Diego State University, where he became involved with the SDSU Gay Liberation Front in 1970, serving as vice-president, then president. He organized the first openly LGBT support in local politics, for mayoral candidate Jack Walsh, during that time.
Along with Tom Homann and Nicole Murray-Ramirez, Mr. Jessop fought to obtain city permits for the first Pride parade in 1974. He was a charter member and spokesperson for Gay Alliance for Equal Rights in 1979, and participated in the first LGBT March on Washington. Mr. Jessop supported the first local LGBT political campaigns, working on Al Best's campaign for city council in 1979 and Neil Good's city council campaign in 1987.
The San Diego LGBT Center began in 1971 as an answering machine. The answering machine was a twenty-four hour hotline — people who needed military or LGBT counseling could call the number, leave a message and Jessop or one of a small group, named "the Planning Committee," would call them back. The initial 1971-1972 planning committee for what would become The Center for Social Services, Inc., included Patricia Byers, Thom Carey, Patricia Clutchy, Peggy Heathers, Jess Jessop, Clint Johnson, Bernie Michels, George Murphy, Jerry Peterson, Gary Rees, John Senter, Cynthia Wallace and Jerry White. This group knew that the LGBT community needed more than phone counseling, and worked to open an organization that could provide for the community's particular education, health and social needs.
Over the next two years, the group met once a week to map out the elements that such an organization would provide. By September 1973, Jess Jessop, Bernie Michels and the Planning Committee had gathered enough money to open The Center for Social Services in a ten-room, two-story house in Golden Hill. With Mr. Jessop serving as executive director, The Center began to realize the vision of community pride and health that the Planning Committee had hoped to create.
To establish a strong, positive community and sense of selfworth, Mr. Jessop recognized that LGBTs must understand and appreciate their roots. He founded the Lesbian and Gay Archives of San Diego in 1987 to combat the sense of cultural isolation many LGBT community members feel from not knowing their history. Renamed the Lesbian and Gay Historical Society, the collection of original documents, records and cultural artifacts helps to record and preserve the diverse lives and accomplishments of LGBT people throughout San Diego.
Mr. Jessop was a names historian for the Names Project Tour when the AIDS Quilt came to San Diego in 1988. He was inducted into the San Diego Hall of Fame in 1979, received the Harvey Milk Memorial Award for community service in 1988, and was San Diego LGBT Pride Grand Marshall twice — in 1977 and 1989. On July 19, 1988, Mayor Maureen O'Connor proclaimed Jessop's 49th birthday to be "Jess Jessop Day" in San Diego. Jess Jessop died of AIDS in 1990. "Yours In The Struggle" was memorialized on his AIDS Quilt panel, and became the Center's Gala 30th Anniversary theme in 2003.
Jess Jessop, Leader in Gay Community, Dies at 50
February 22, 1990|MICHAEL GRANBERRY | LA TIMES STAFF WRITER
Jess Jessop, a pioneer in San Diego's gay and lesbian community, died Tuesday at his home in Golden Hill from complications resulting from AIDS. He was 50.
Jessop, who twice was honored with a "Jess Jessop Day" by Mayor Maureen O'Connor, was born in Baltimore but moved to San Diego 23 years ago to attend San Diego State University.
During his time at SDSU, he was active in the on-campus chapter of the Gay Liberation Front and later served as the first executive director of the Gay Center for Social Services. In a resume that Jessop made available before his death, he noted that he conducted "the first gay press conference" in San Diego.
As a member of the Hospital Corps, he received the Navy's Silver Star for heroism and later served in Vietnam with the Marine Corps.
More recently, he had been active in the San Diego AIDS Project and was the founder of the Lesbian and Gay Archives of San Diego, which he ran out of his home on Laurel Street in Golden Hill.
"I found Jess to be fascinating in his approach to leadership and activism," said Rodney Jaeger, who divides his time between the AIDS project and the archives collection. "One of the many things he said that had an impact on me was, you don't always have to be someone out there in front to be a leader. If you're doing something worthwhile, people will realize it and follow you.
"Jess believed in what he was doing. He was committed and considered it worthwhile. He didn't take on airs, he didn't have a superior attitude, he did things that had to be done. He had been living with AIDS for at least a year and a half, which is as long as I've been in San Diego."
Gary Rees, a longtime friend of Jessop's, said Jessop died from respiratory failure resulting from AIDS.
"But he died very peacefully, in his own home, and with a dear friend by his side," Rees said. "That's just how he wanted it."
Rees said a memorial service for Jessop will be at 11 a.m. March 10 at the Metropolitan Community Church in the 4300 block of 30th Street in North Park. Rees said Jessop asked that, instead of flowers, donations be made to the Lesbian and Gay Archives of San Diego, P.O. Box 4186, San Diego, 92104.
Rick Moore, a longtime gay activist in San Diego, said Jessop was "involved in the movement from the very beginning. He's the kind of man who would assess the important needs of the community and be willing to work very hard over long periods of time to meet them."
Moore described the archives project, which Jessop founded in December of 1987, as "an effort to preserve and document the history of gay people in San Diego and to make it available to others in the future."
He called Jessop a "high-class and gentle guy who always took the high road and urged others to do the same. When many of us were fighting it out in the community, he would be the peacemaker. He was very positive, the kind of force we always needed."
Created by: Pat McArron
Record added: Jun 21, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial# 92273205