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William H. Nelson, Jr. (1949-1990), or Bill Nelson, as he was commonly addressed, was a prominent leader in the LGBT rights movement in Dallas during the pivotal years of the AIDS epidemic. Nelson, a former Dallas high school history teacher and coach, was reprimanded after his photograph was spotted in a TWIT (This Week in Texas) publication in 1979, as part of a “Fun-Fest” event for the Democratic Party. In the photograph, Nelson is wearing a March on Washington t-shirt. Nelson fought the reprimand and it was never included in his personnel file. He worked for the school during a span of 10 years without prior incident, receiving an award for teacher of the year in 1974.
Bill was affiliated with the Dallas Gay Alliance, the Dallas Gay Political Caucus, the Foundation for Human Understanding and various other groups. Nelson was also president of the Dallas Gay Alliance during 1984-1987. During these years, Nelson, along with others, formed the beginnings of what became the AIDS Resource Center or Resource Center, as it is known today. In the Dallas area, he was one of the key organizers for the 1979 March on Washington. He was also a founder of Razzle Dazzle Dallas, an annual fundraising event, which continues to this day. Based on ACT UP, out of New York, Gay Urban Truth Squad, or GUTS was another of Nelson’s projects, where he and others raised public awareness on gay rights and AIDS issues through both protests and site installations. Nelson was also president of the Vickery Place Neighborhood Association (North Henderson Neighborhood Association), a member on the Board of Directors for the Dallas Homeowner's League and a member of the Texas Human Rights Foundation.
In 1985 and in 1987, Nelson ran for a seat on the Dallas City Council. In the first City Council run, Lori Palmer won the election. In the second run, in 1987, Nelson received 23,000 votes. During one of these elections, Nelson could not sign one of the candidate forms for the Council because, as an openly gay man, he could not abide by Texas Statute 21.06.
Bill Nelson, along with his partner, Terry Tebedo and their friend, William Waybourn, founded Crossroads Market, a store which supplied magazines, books, antiques and jewelry. Through donations of canned goods for AIDS patients, Crossroads Market marked the beginnings of what would become the food pantry for the AIDS Resource Center
In the Dallas Gay Alliance vs. Parkland Hospital (City of Dallas) case (c. 1988-1990), Nelson, and members of the Dallas Gay Alliance, sued the City of Dallas over discriminatory practices by the hospital towards AIDS patients. AIDS patients were put on waiting lists for health care and some had died because of not receiving treatment. Hundreds of these patients were also assigned to the same doctor, which slowed treatment time.
Nelson passed away in 1990 of AIDS-related complications and was preceded in death by Tebedo in 1988. The Nelson-Tebedo Clinic was named at the AIDS Resource Center in their honor. Jean Nelson, Bill’s mother, participated in gay rights events in memory of her son until her death in 2016.
Reproduction and publication of materials in this collection are subject to the policies of the UNT Archives and Rare Books department. Copyright restrictions may apply.
This collection contains restricted items.
William H. "Bill" Nelson, Jr. and Jean Nelson Collection (The Dallas Way), University of North Texas Special Collections
Collection is housed in the UNT Archives and Rare Book department vault. The UNT Archives and Rare Book department requires a 24 hour notice from patrons in order to page materials from the vault and ready the materials for use. Please contact the UNT Archives and Rare Book department for further information.
These materials are arranged into three separate series. Series 1: Papers contains the papers and photographs of Bill Nelson and Jean Nelson. Series 2: Audio/Visual contains recorded audio and video materials from Bill Nelson's life. Series 3: Artifacts contains three-dimensional or oversize objects.
The poetry, writing and memoirs of Bill Nelson are part of this collection. Also included in this collection are the letters and speeches of Jean Nelson, mainly concerning her son, Bill Nelson, as well as correspondence with Bill’s friend, Mike Anglin. Jean Nelson discusses her life with Bill and after his death, presenting a unique point of view as the mother of a civil rights leader and as someone who lost a loved one to AIDS. Letters of support to Jean Nelson and others as tributes to the life of Bill Nelson are included as well.
Contains an article which appeared in AIDS Update in March of 1990.
Contains clippings, a Bill Nelson campaign sticker, campaign letters and brochures.
Contains a speech presented to the church by Jean Nelson in honor of the life of Bill Nelson.
Contains a story about Vic Basile's first introduction to Bill Nelson and the impact it has had on his life.
Contains Jean Nelson's writing on a Hospice place which cares for AIDS patients.
Contains Jean Nelson's first speech at the opening of the Nelson-Tebedo Clinic as part of the AIDS Resouce Center.
Contains a flyer from W.T. White High School welcoming the former student Bill Nelson back to the school as a teacher, a clipping from the Dallas Times Herald on Nelson's battle with AIDS, his obituary and a brochure with a biography on Nelson's life, showcasing his work as a past president of the Vickery Place Neighborhood Association.
Contains correspondence between Karen Estes and family members of Terry Tebedo who mention his life growing up in Michigan and his life in Dallas with responses from both William Waybourn and Dick Weaver.
Contains postcards from Bill Nelson's trips to New York, Europe, the Mediterranean and Spain, his letters, as well as a letter from Jean Nelson.
Contains photographs primarily of Bill Nelson, as well as some color prints of Terry Tebedo and Jean Nelson. John Thomas and others also appear in the photos, as well as a photo of Tebedo when he was ill with AIDS.
Contains 3x5 black and white prints, with most of the photography done for a modeling agency.
Contains color photo prints of the AIDS Memorial Quilt as well as a patch of the quilt dedicated to Bill Nelson and Terry Tebedo.
Contains letters from the inside front cover of the reprimand notebook.
Contains the September 14th, 1979 issue of TWIT (This Week in Texas) showing Bill Nelson's photograph on page 59, Nelson's formal grievance procedure to have the reprimand removed, case materials and references in defense of Nelson's grievance, Principal Maple's letter denying the grievance, Nelson's formal appeal of the grievance to the Dallas Independent School District, letters concerning DISD involvement in the appeal, letters of support for Bill's grievance, Principal Maple's letter withdrawing the reprimand, as well as the DISD Assistant Superintendent congratulating Bill Nelson.
A transcription of this diary with a contextual note by Nelson's friends William Waybourn and Mike Anglin is presented in a digital format on the Portal to Texas History. Identifier: UNTA_AR0842-001
Contains an audio cassette tape with an interview conducted with Bill Nelson by Linda Mitchell's sister.
Contains an audio cassette recording on Bill Nelson's Memorial Services at Lovers Lane United Methodist Church in Dallas.
Contains a 3.5 diskette with Don Baker's speech to the Texas Human Rights Foundation.
Contains a DVD recording of an interview with Charlie Rose as part of the Nightwatch series in 1986. Bill Nelson and Congressman Gilmore of Ohio are featured in the recording.
Contains a DVD recording of two News Addition segments on the life of Bill Nelson.
Contains a DVD recording of footage from Bill Nelson's run for Dallas City Council.
Contains a DVD recording of footage from Bill Nelson's run for Dallas City Council.
Contains a DVD recording of Bill Nelson's Memorial Services.
Contains the full transcription of Bill Nelson's Paris Journal in DVD-RW format.
Contains the full transcription of Bill Nelson's Paris Journal in CD-R format.
Contains collage layouts of Bill Nelson's AIDS Memorial Quilt designed by Jean Nelson and Bill's sister, Sheila.
NOTE: This is laminated material which will most likely require some other form of preservation.