William H. "Bill" Nelson, Jr. and Jean Nelson Collection (The Dallas Way), 1970-2011Add to your cart.

By S. Ivie

Collection Overview

Title: William H. "Bill" Nelson, Jr. and Jean Nelson Collection (The Dallas Way), 1970-2011Add to your cart.
Predominant Dates: 1971-1990
ID: 01/ AR0842
Extent: 5.0 Boxes
Arrangement: 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.

Scope and Contents of the Materials

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.

Collection Historical Note

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.

Access Information

Access Restrictions:

This collection contains restricted items.

Use Restrictions:

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.

Physical Access Note:

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.

Reading Room or Duplication Requests

Depending on any access restrictions noted above, you may be able to request items be delivered to our reading room, or that we make reproductions for you. Just click on either the or icons in the listings below to be routed to our request form.

Administrative Information

Repository: University of North Texas Special Collections
Preferred Citation: William H. "Bill" Nelson, Jr. and Jean Nelson Collection (The Dallas Way), University of North Texas Special Collections

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