With news breaking Thursday that the U.S. Navy will name a ship after slain gay rights leader Harvey Milk, we’re reminded that Milk was a 1947 graduate of Bay Shore High School.
After Bay Shore, Milk went on to the New York State College for Teachers (now SUNY Albany), from which he graduated in 1951 and enlisted in the Navy soon after.
In 1955, Milk was discharged with the rank of lieutenant junior grade, according to the Official Harvey Milk Biography found on milkfoundation.org.
“He knew he was gay by the time he attended Bay Shore High School, where he was a popular student with wide-ranging interests, from opera to playing football,” the biography reads.
Milk is also a Bay Shore Hall of Fame member, inducted by the Bay Shore High School Alumni Association as part of the Class of 2004.
He became the first openly gay elected official in a major American city when he joined the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. He was assassinated, along with the city’s mayor, George Moscone, in 1978 — just 11 months later — by Dan White, a rival and former city supervisor.
“The thought of assassination had haunted Milk during his years in public life,” reads a brief bio on the Bay Shore Alumni Association page. “He tape recorded several version of his political will which he labeled, ‘To be read in the event of my assassination.’
“One of the tapes including the following statement: ‘If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.'”
Milk is revered as a pioneer in the LGBT civil rights movement.
He had encouraged lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens to live their lives openly, believing doing so was the only way they could truly achieve social equality.
Milk was played by Sean Penn in the 2008 movie “Milk,” for which Penn won an Academy Award for best actor.
According to USNI.org, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus signed a notification on July 14 indicated he intended to name a planned Military Sealift Command fleet oiler USNS Harvey Milk (T-AO-206).
Milk was also posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2009.
“For much of his early life he had silenced himself,” President Obama said (see video). “In the prime of his life, he was silenced by the act of another. But in the brief time in which he spoke, and ran, and led, his voice spurred the aspirations of millions of people …
“And his message of hope, hope unashamed, hope unafraid, cannot ever be silenced.”
Caption: File:Harvey Milk (L) at Gay Pride San Jose, June 1978. http://digitalcollections.sjlibrary.org/