Gay Atlanta loses another: John Speaks, 64

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imageGay Atlanta lost another activist and friend with the Aug. 27 death of John Thomas Speaks Jr.

Speaks, who died last week from a heart attack, was buried Monday at Greenwood Cemetery. He will be remembered Monday during a 5 p.m. reception at Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse. The store called Speaks “one of our friends and most loyal patrons” in an announcement about the reception.

Speaks was remembered in a death notice in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

John Thomas Speaks, Jr., a resident of Atlanta for more than forty years, died suddenly of a heart attack on August 27, 2009. Born in Oceanside, California on April 27, 1945, John grew up in Gadsden, Alabama before attending Harvard University and ultimately settling in Atlanta. John was actively involved in the Atlanta community and was a member of numerous progressive political groups over the last four decades. He was dedicated to equal rights for all people regardless of race, gender, class, religion or sexual orientation. John was also an avid traveler, who visited countries throughout the world and even traveled to Antarctica. John used these experiences in his job as an instructor of English as a Second Language at Georgia Perimeter College. He was a devoted teacher and was loved by his students. He is survived by his sons John and Jacob Speaks, his partner Corey Green, his parents Rev. John T. and Martha Speaks, his sister Henrietta Speaks, daughters-in-law Susan Shirley and Jennifer Hamilton, and grandchildren Morgan Russell and John Speaks IV. He will be sorely missed by his many friends who were also part of his family. He was predeceased by his wife Linda Cohn Speaks in 1997. A graveside funeral service will take place at 1 o’clock on Monday August 31, 2009 at Greenwood Cemetery, 1173 Cascade Circle SW, Atlanta, GA 30311, (404) 753-2128. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the progressive cause of your choice. He would have wanted it that way. Arrangements by H.M. Patterson and Son, Arlington Chapel, Sandy Springs, Georgia.

Speaks spoke to Southern Voice in July 2008 about public displays of affection:

The gay rights movement fights to be on par with heterosexuals in the workplace and wedding chapel, and it’s also important to be able to show affection in the same way heterosexuals do, says gay Atlantan John Speaks, 64.

Gay people are reluctant to show public affection due to “conditioning” against “a political act,” Speaks says.

“The idea that you have to have your own space in order to do things like hold hands — obviously it’s not what the majority of people do in this society, so why should we?”

Gay Atlanta recently lost two longtime leaders and activists when Allen Thornell died Aug. 3 and Phillip Rush died April 28.


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