Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Memorial Comment for Billy Jack Gaither

by Stephen V. Sprinkle

Billy Jack Gaither

January 21, 1960 – February 19, 1999

Sylacauga, Alabama

~ ~ ~

Billy Jack Gaither died like no one should ever have to die–in pain, in terror, and alone. Two unhappy, hate-filled young men took out their homophobia, and that of their community, state, and region upon a gentle, loyal, pious Alabamian. That was ten years ago.

For ten years now, members of his family, a small cadre of LGBT activists and scholars, and a group of brave citizens of Birmingham, have fought to keep Billy Jack’s memory alive. For the past few years, the Billy Jack Gaither Humanitarian Award, given annually, has sought to advance the cause of equality and justice for all people. This year, the Billy Jack Award will be conferred on its recipient in a ceremony at the state capital in Montgomery. He would have been surprised, pleased, and proud. I believe he would also be justly angry that ten years have come and gone since he was bludgeoned to death with a pick ax handle on the banks of Peckerwood Creek for no other reason than his sexual orientation, and Sweet Home Alabama still has not enacted an LGBT hate crimes law, nor has the United States of America.

A Rally in Alabama Urging Passage of Hate Crime Legislation

I believe I know what he would have to say about the failure of his state and nation to act justly and protect all citizens–he would say, “It ain’t right!”

Since Billy Jack’s hate crime murder, hundreds of men and women have paid the ultimate price for being true to the way God made them. “It ain’t right!”

The stories of too many LGBT hate crimes victims have been forgotten, without tenacious friends and family to keep the flame of their memories alive. “It ain’t right!”

Too many law enforcement officers and officers of the court still harbor homophobic attitudes. Too many otherwise good church folk, white, black, brown and yellow, still deny that God cherishes LGBT people as much as straight people. Too many gay and lesbian folk around the nation are asleep at the wheel, unengaged in demanding their human rights, in denial that violence against them is on the rise. “It just ain’t right!”

Billy Jack still lives, so long as the struggle for human rights goes on, so long as we remember him. As the LGBT anthem goes, “What have you done today that makes you feel proud?” Isn’t it time to start getting things right?

Stephen V. Sprinkle
The Unfinished Lives Project

February 19, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. This was my cousin Billy Jack … my father Everett Ray and his mother Annie Lois Gaither were brother and sister.
    I loved Billy Jack and still remember his kind ways and his wonderful smile.
    He is dearly missed!

    Comment by Carolanne | August 27, 2009

    • I am honored to have your comment, Carolanne. Your family has been very kind to me.

      Steve Sprinkle

      Comment by unfinishedlives | August 28, 2009

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