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(cross posted at NWA Center for Equality)

If you weren’t looking for it, you would have missed it.  One year ago today, a special person passed away.  A gay person…from Fayetteville…who had an impact on the world.  Henry Lee Woods Jr. was once editor of the University of Arkansas yearbook before making a career in politics in Washington, D.C.  His impact at the University of Arkansas is most visible through a decade old award in his name for outstanding student leaders.  His impact on the LGBTQ movement is far more subtle.

Why am I just now discussing the late Mr. Woods?  The occasion of Sen. Blanche Lincoln retiring is why.  She is leaving the Senate after her failed reelection bid after having spent 12 years in the Senate and 4 years in the House.  Sen. Lincoln was very much in the spotlight this past year because of her potential to be the near-tiebreaking vote on legislation important to the LGBTQ community.  She was labeled by different sides as being either a friend or a foe to the cause.  Her voting history shows that she (eventually) sided to repeal DADT this year and voted for the Hate Crimes Bill in 2009.  HRC has the following score card for her for 3 Congresses (missing 111th Congress, her last):

HRC Score Card
110th: (70%) 109th: (89%) 108th: (63%)

This overview of only the most current years misses what many older LGBTQ Arkansans most remember her for, that being her record on marriage equality.  In 1996, as a Representative, she failed to vote at all on the Defense of Marriage Act.  In 2004, as a Senator, she voted against sending the Federal Marriage Amendment to the states for ratification, thus keeping the hope for marriage equality alive and discrimination out of the U.S. Constitution.  She was notably absent, however, from the group of Arkansans speaking out against Arkansas’ marriage amendment in 2004 and Act 1 in 2008.

So it’s a mixed record of how she acts on the issue of LGBTQ equality.  Where does Mr. Woods figure into this?

“he served on the staffs of Congressman Bill Alexander, Senator David Pryor, Senator Dale Bumpers, and Senator Blanche Lincoln, all of Arkansas.”

Sen. Lincoln, along with others that represented Arkansas (in the 1990’s), had regular contact with a gay person.  Judging by their action or inaction on equality, I sometimes wonder if Congresspeople even know LGBTQ people.  “Everyone knows gay people” is what we often say, and even Senators are included in this.

I don’t know how out Mr. Woods was or whether LGBTQ issues were even something he worked on during his time as a Washington insider.  He should be remembered as an active member of his communities and successful political staffer.  We should also remember that despite voting records, people like Sen. Lincoln are humans that probably know LGBTQ people.  Hopefully those LGBTQ people are willing to advocate in a very personal way and hopefully elected officials are open to listening.  Our challenge is to figure out who it is that we personally know whom we have not engaged in the movement for equality.  Whom will you tell in 2011 your personal reasons for supporting equality?

Mr. Woods’s obituary:

KEY WEST, Fla. — Henry Lee Woods Jr., 58, of Key West died January 3, 2010, at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Miami as a result of a brain aneurysm that ruptured on Christmas Day.
Born on February 7, 1951, in Malvern, Arkansas, Henry was a 1969 graduate of Hot Springs High, the first class to graduate from the new high school. He was a National Merit Scholar. He also lettered in tennis and was a member of the Thespian Club and acted in productions such as “Harvey,” “Our Town,” “Everyman Today” and “The Mouse That Roared.” In addition to acting, Henry loved movies and sports, especially anything involving the “Razorbacks” . Henry’s high school graduating class of 1969 recently celebrated their 40th reunion, which he helped organize. The “69” HSHS class had over 100 members in attendance and still stay connected today.
Henry was a 1973 graduate of the University of Arkansas, and also received a Master’s Degree in Political Science from American University in Washington, D.C., in 1998. While an undergraduate at Arkansas, he was elected editor of the school’s yearbook, “The Razorback” for two years and was named to “Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities.” As editor of the “Razorback” , he joined the Razorback football program as the “Paper Pig” , modeled after George Plimpton’s “Paper Lion.” Woods practiced with the team and chronicled “life as a Razorback” during the 1971 football season.
In 1974, Henry moved to Washington, D.C., and spent 25 years on Capitol Hill. There, he served on the staffs of Congressman Bill Alexander, Senator David Pryor, Senator Dale Bumpers, and Senator Blanche Lincoln, all of Arkansas.
“Henry was a joy to be around both personally and professionally,” said Bumpers. “His profession, politics, was very personal to him. He had a tremendous work ethic and a tremendous talent of making a friend of everyone he met. The world will be dimmer place without him in it.”
“He was a total people person and never forgot the constituents that we represented,” said Pryor. “If I have ever known anyone who exemplified what public service is all about, it is Henry Woods. He leaves behind an army of devoted and admiring friends.”
“Henry was a great ambassador for Arkansas and was a special asset to the Congressional delegation,” Lincoln said. “We will miss Henry Woods and I will forever remember him as a great guy who was always positive and supportive for his many friends.”
Henry brought this same work ethic and enthusiasm for helping people to his new home in Key West in 1999 where he taught political science at the Florida Keys Community College, wrote grants for AIDS Help, and consulted on local political and public relations matters.
He was also dedicated to many community organizations, particularly the Waterfront Theater that he helped to revitalize by serving as its President and by performing musicals such as Urinetown and in musical revues such as Broadway with a Twist. His proudest achievement was obtaining funding and directing the $400,000 restoration of the “back of the house” including the new Ross and Anne McKee Lobby. He was also active in political groups such as Lambda Democrats, the Key West and Lower Keys Democratic Club, and the LBTG Caucus of the Florida Democratic Party.
He is survived by his partner Lee Skillington of Key West; his parents Jean and Henry Lee Woods Sr. of Hot Springs; his brother Danny and his wife, Debby, of Hot Springs and his brother William Marshall (Marty ) and his wife, Jana, of Little Rock, and nieces and nephews in the Woods and Skillington families.
In appreciation of his 25 years of public service in Washington and in honor of his undergraduate leadership at the University of Arkansas, friends established the Henry Woods Outstanding Student Leader Award in 1999 which is presented annually to a senior at the University of Arkansas. A scholarship accompanies the award.
Memorials can be made to the Henry Woods Award, Office of Student Affairs, 325 Administration Building, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas 72701.
Memorial services will be conducted in Hot Springs on Saturday, January 23, at 1 p.m. in Room 207-09 of the Hot Springs Convention Center. Another service will be conducted in Key West later in January at a time and place to be announced.

Originally posted to Daxton16 on Wed Jan 05, 2011 at 03:09 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (12+ / 0-)

    "Baby, if I told you I was a race with 1% of precincts reporting, would you call me?"

    by Daxton16 on Wed Jan 05, 2011 at 03:09:34 PM PST

  •  Well, she also knows Lindsey Graham. eom (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Marie, bythesea, Clarknt67, Daxton16, Miggles

    "[R]ather high-minded, if not a bit self-referential"--The Washington Post.

    by Geekesque on Wed Jan 05, 2011 at 03:12:23 PM PST

  •  Having lived in NWA through the '70s (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Larry Bailey, Daxton16

    there is hope for tolerance throughout the country.

    Fayetteville is as much as a part of me as NYC is - I'm proud to have lived in both.

    "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." Michael Steele quoting "War and Peace" lolwut?

    by mydailydrunk on Wed Jan 05, 2011 at 03:20:27 PM PST

    •  all former FayetteCong welcome in FayetteNam (4+ / 0-)

      It can seem like being sent to war, coming to a small southern town, but the place has really grown since the 1970's.  I am just 28 and have been able to see the change.   Would it surprise you if I told you we a have an LGBT Center in Fayetteville?  It's small, but growing and having an impact.  Last year we even got the Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission to fund out Pride month festivities!

      "Baby, if I told you I was a race with 1% of precincts reporting, would you call me?"

      by Daxton16 on Wed Jan 05, 2011 at 03:24:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  lol - I was part of the generation that (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Larry Bailey

        came up with "Fayettenam"  A reference to Ft. Chaffee taking in and processing boat people.  And the oppressively hot summers.

        While my name is not on the walkways, I have many fond memories of Gregson Hall and the Student Union as it was being built, "Life of Brian" being banned until the theater on Dickson St. showed it over the UBC's objections.

        It was a wonderfully safe town to grow up in.  In retrospect, I was very lucky to experience such a town where children would be absolutely safe riding bikes at all hours or playing tag on a neighbor's lawn.

        "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." Michael Steele quoting "War and Peace" lolwut?

        by mydailydrunk on Wed Jan 05, 2011 at 03:34:42 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  That's really funny... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mydailydrunk

          There's a Fayetteville in North Carolina and when I lived in NC (20 years ago), people sometimes called it Fayettenam. Fort Bragg is there. It never occurred to me that there might be other Fayettevilles with the same nickname.

          "One man's Mede is another man's Persian." - George S. Kaufman

          by Dbug on Wed Jan 05, 2011 at 05:54:44 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Republican and DINO politicians (0+ / 0-)

    play to the mythical boobs in the boondocks who act a accordingly on election day at the direction of their corporate and religious overlords.

    Bring Our JOBS and Troops Home NOW!

    by Marie on Wed Jan 05, 2011 at 03:26:45 PM PST

    •  Marie, so who directed Lincoln? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sewaneepat, deMemedeMedia

      Did the voters direct her to hire gay people?  Did the conservative voters of Arkansas direct her to vote for the Hate Crimes bill or for the repeal of DADT?

      I think my suggestion is that allies and enemies don't always fit into nice, easy boxes that are easy to label.

      "Baby, if I told you I was a race with 1% of precincts reporting, would you call me?"

      by Daxton16 on Wed Jan 05, 2011 at 03:29:46 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Better Lincoln than Boozman.... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sewaneepat

        Boozman will be a NO vote on all issues that you brought up and those that will be of importance to progressives. He can hardly wait to get us back to our "Christian roots intended by our founders".

        You're right Daxton, 70% with hires is better than 0% with strong anti rhetoric.

        And those mythical boobs do get out and vote in AR.

        I would add to this that Rep Patrick Murphy, a lost seat in the House, is a very conservative Blue Dog type, but was a driving force behind repeal of DADT.

        "...fighting the wildfires of my life with squirt guns."

        by deMemedeMedia on Wed Jan 05, 2011 at 05:01:40 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  If I had a label for Lincoln (0+ / 0-)

        on gay rights, it would be "irrelevant."

        Her tenure in the Senate was overall marked by at best apathy, at worst, a tendency to repeat right wing talking points, like just last year calling ENDA "special rights for gays," a framing that made efforts to shore support that much harder.

        Her Senatorial deathbed conversion on DADT was very nice. But like the 12 years before, largely irrelevant. She finally found the courage to support an LGBT bill when it was going to pass by overwhelming support.

        I mean, good for her. Everyone loves to be on the winning team, she's welcome to come along for the victory party and drink our champagne. Let's not pretend she did much to earn her spot at the celebration.

        Who she is/was friends with and who she hired is largely irrelevant to the topic. She never was much help in her capacity as a Senator, and as such a leader of the country, to those who wished to change the status quo.

        "You can't hardly separate homosexuals from subversives."--Senator Kenneth Wherry, 1950.

        by Scott Wooledge on Thu Jan 06, 2011 at 07:58:01 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

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