Tim Campbell, an outspoken gay activist in the Twin Cities and former editor of the GLC Voice newspaper, died Dec. 26 at a hospice in Houston, Texas. He was 76 and had fought a short battle with aggressive esophageal cancer.
Campbell branded himself a spokesman for the gay community, although many insisted he didn’t speak for them. During the 1980s, he was one of the few openly gay men who would get back to reporters on issues ranging from the AIDS crisis to gay bathhouses and the annual Pride Festival.
His style was confrontational. He and former Minneapolis City Council Member Barbara Carlson almost came to fisticuffs on several occasions over some action — or inaction. He was fearless in his arguments with police, and once took a swing with his briefcase at a member of the Minneapolis vice squad after the officer called him “Timmy.”
Unafraid of public spectacle, he once brought a cream pie to an AIDS task force meeting. He dressed as a campy Lady Liberty to protest the Rev. Jerry Falwell and set a fire in the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department to protest the handling of gay issues.
“He was the queen of guerrilla theater,” his longtime friend Dean Amundson said Sunday.
The late former state Sen. Allan Spear, the first openly gay legislator in Minnesota, was a longtime foe.
“I know there are those who think he makes the rest of us look more moderate, but the truth is he makes it difficult for everyone in the gay and lesbian community who are trying to work responsibly,” Spear said of Campbell in a 1986 article.
Campbell was tireless in his coverage of HIV/AIDS and promotion of safe sex. He advocated for gay marriage long before same-sex civil unions were even recognized by employers.
Campbell founded the GLC Voice in 1979 after working for a short-lived newspaper called Positively Gay. Every two weeks over the paper’s 13-year run, 10,000 copies of the GLC Voice were distributed on college campuses, in gay bars and sex-oriented bookstores and in street racks.
He never made money on the venture and said half-jokingly that he “earned a starving.”
Campbell was born in Leavenworth, Kan., and grew up on the Gulf Coast of Texas.
In an obituary he wrote himself, Campbell said he was pushed into an openly gay lifestyle by the Army in 1962 when he was called to register for the draft.
“He checked the box for people who had ‘homosexual tendencies’ even though he had never yet acted on them,” Campbell wrote. “For years thereafter, Campbell had to list ‘1Y’ as his draft status on every job application he filled out. This had a chilling effect on his pursuit of highly respectable employment.”
Campbell had a master’s degree in French and linguistics and was hired in 1970 to teach philosophy at the University of Minnesota Morris. Two years later, his excessive drinking got him fired. He had been sober since 1973 and said in his obit that he was founding chair of the Lambda Sobriety Center in Minneapolis in 1981.
In 1973-74, Campbell joined with Jack Baker and Mike McConnell, pioneering advocates of gay marriage, to conduct seminars in sensitivity training on gay issues for students, police, chemical dependency counselors and other business people. He advocated for news organizations to use “gay” and “lesbian” rather than “homosexual.”
In 1992, Campbell decided he was tired. He closed the GLC Voice, almost abruptly, Amundson said. He returned to Texas at least 10 years ago, where he took up painting and advocated for his retirement community.
“He had a caring, gentle side to him,” Amundson said. “Very nurturing, he wanted to be loved and love other people.”