Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Billy Jack Gaither Humanitarian Award Given to Birmingham Human Rights Champion: Hate Victim Remembered

David Gary, Billy Jack Gaither Humanitarian Award Winner

Montgomery, Alabama – David Gary, a noted bank officer and dedicated LGBT activist well-known throughout Alabama, was awarded the Third Annual Billy Jack Gaither Humanitarian Award on Sunday, February 21, 2010. Mr. Gary is a master networker, and a true humanitarian. He is one of the founders of Integrity Alabama, the LGBT Episcopal advocacy group.  The award was officially conferred during the 12th Annual Vigil for Victims of Hate and Violence, held on the steps of the state capital to commemorate the murder of Billy Jack Gaither of Sylacauga. Gaither, a gay man, was bludgeoned to death with an axe handle on the banks of Peckerwood Creek by two homophobic assailants on February 19, 1999.  His body was burned like trash on a pile of tire carcasses.  Both of his murderers remain in prison serving out their sentences.  The Gaither murder, one of the most heinous anti-gay hate crimes in Alabama history, made news throughout the United States.  Though Mr. Gary could not be present for the presentation because of a bout of ill health, his remarks were conveyed to the crowd.  They are published here, in full: I was very humbled when hearing of the honor given me by this group today and deeply regret not being able to attend. My life has changed and been dramatically enriched through my association of many, both here and absent, who have worked tirelessly for decades to ensure people who have fallen to hate did not die in vain.  There are times when tragedy opens doors of association that we would have never known before.  My friendship with Kathy Gaither is golden to me, as was my friendship with Ken Baker and the numbers of like-minded people he introduced me to.  From Ken, Marshall Johnson and the Rev. Tim Holder, I learned the need of quick response and coordinated action. A more recent association is with the Rev. Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, associate professor of practical theology at Brite Divinity School, Fort Worth, Texas who has been researching LGBT hate crimes.  Dr. Sprinkle visited Alabama to prepare his anthology of stories for his upcoming book, Unfinished Lives: Reviving the Memory of LGBT Hate Crimes Murder Victims.  From him, I learned the importance of never, never, never allowing the stories to disappear.  These horrific stories are very important and must not be forgotten. There are so many others we can discuss, but the important thing to remember, in my opinion, is threefold:  The work we do here is important, sacred and necessary. It is important because we should never ever allow the stories and memories of those who are victims to be forgotten. It is sacred, because of how we reverently assemble to not allow them to be forgotten. Unfortunately, our work remains necessary because we all know that any morning we may awake to the news of yet another person how has fallen to hate.  Extremism still exists and we can not stop our work as long as its ugliness lives among us. I invite all here to find the place to put your talents to work in the advocacy necessary to prevent yet another Billy Jack Gaither, whose name this award carries, along with the memory of many others, both with us and deceased.” Upon hearing the news of Mr. Gary’s selection for the Billy Jack Gaither Award, Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, Director of the Unfinished Lives Project, said, “The reason Billy Jack’s important story has not been forgotten is due in large measure to the tenacious advocacy of a small group of dedicated humanitarians and human rights activists in Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, and Montgomery.  David Gary is a key figure in this group: strong, trusted throughout the state of Alabama, and dedicated to ushering in a better world for LGBT people and everyone else.  No one is more deserving of this honor than Mr. Gary.”  The sponsors of the vigil in Montgomery were Alabama NOW, Color It Pride, Equality Alabama, Immanuel Presbyterian Church (Montgomery), New Hope Metropolitan Community Church, PFLAG (Parents, Friends, and Families of Lesbians and Gays) Montgomery, and the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Montgomery.  Keynote speaker for the event was Dr. Gwynedd A. Thomas, the first openly intersexed or transgender faculty member at Auburn University.

February 22, 2010 - Posted by | Alabama, Anglo Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Bludgeoning, gay men, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, immolation, Law and Order, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Remembrances, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, Vigils | , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. I remember making a pilgrimage to the Billy Jack Gaither’s murder site a few days after his murder. Jim Casey and I made the trip where we sprinkled the site with Holy Water and said prayers for Billy Jack and for all his gay brothers and sisters. I also attended several Candle light vigils in Montgomery. David Gary was always present at these vigils and has been a great asset to the GLBT community in Alabama. No one is more deserving of this award than my friend, David Gary.

    Comment by Marshall Johnson | February 22, 2010

    • I couldn’t agree more, Marshall. Thanks!


      Comment by unfinishedlives | February 23, 2010

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