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Dr. William “Bill” Beck, LGBT civil rights leader, dies at 74

Dr. William Beck, a leader in the political advancement of the LGBT community in San Diego and a local business owner died on Monday, February 22 at his home in Hillcrest with his husband and partner of almost 40 years David Huskey at his side.

Over the last 30 years Bill raised more than $10 million for numerous political campaigns and donated thousands of dollars personally to causes supporting the fight against HIV/AIDS, expanding civil rights and supporting LGBT business groups.

His vision and determination were instrumental in the 1993 election of Christine Kehoe to the San Diego City Council, the first openly LGBT candidate to win public office in San Diego county.

Bill continued his support of Kehoe during her campaigns for the California State Assembly in 2000 and later the State Senate in 2004. He served as finance Chair for Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins when she ran for City Council in 2000 and was instrumental in her election to the Assembly.

He was finance chair for the campaign to elect Bonnie Dumanis to the office of San Diego District Attorney. With her victory she became the first open lesbian in the US to win a district attorney’s office.

California Speaker Toni Atkins announced Bill’s death in a statement on Tuesday, February 23. His husband, David Huskey, confirmed the death was from complications due to Parkinson’s disease.

Bill served on the National Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund Board during its formative years and was a key figure in encouraging LGBT candidates to run for office and in raising money through a national network.

He was a founder of the San Diego Human Dignity Foundation and served on the United San Diego Elections Committee board and the Gay Families of America Project sponsored by GLAAD in 1996.

He was a member of the California Legislature Senate Select Committee on Small Business Enterprises as well as a member of the San Diego Mayor Dick Murphy’s Advisory Board.

In June 2010, the California Legislature recognized him as one of a select group of LGBT "Super Heroes" during LGBT Pride month.

Former CEO of the National Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, Chuck Wolfe, commented upon Bill’s death:

“Bill Beck was a giant in LGBT politics. With charm, wit, and intellect (and maybe some arm twisting) Bill guided his community — and the nation — to a more equal future. Leaders in our community knew that getting Bill and David’s support was the cornerstone to winning in San Diego.

I, along with all who worked with him through the Victory Fund, know that our efforts would have been long delayed without Bill’s tenacious leadership.”

Bill received many well-deserved awards over the years, including the San Diego Democratic Club’s President’s Award and the San Diego LGBT Community Center’s Jess Jessop “Founder’s Award.”

He received multiple Nicky Awards, including the Governor’s Award in 1998 and Outstanding Male Citizen of the Year in 1999. In 2005, he was declared Champion of Pride by San Diego LGBT Pride.

HIV/AIDs causes were also close to Bill’s heart and he served on the board of the AIDS Assistance Fund; and as co-chair of DIFFA (Design Industry Foundation Fights AIDS).

He was a founder and twice served as chair of the famed AIDS fundraiser Alley Cat Ball, and founded the Alley Cat "Fantasy" awards, which granted wishes for people with AIDS. He was also a longstanding member of the San Diego AIDS Foundation.

In addition Bill served on the board of the Greater San Diego Business Association (GSDBA) and received the "20th Year Salute" award from GSDBA in 1999. He was a board member of the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties.

Bill was a founder of the San Diego Human Dignity Foundation, a community fund to sustain organizations providing services to LGBT San Diegans.

Bill and his husband David owned a union printing business, Will Copy & Print for many years. A savvy businessman, Bill will be remembered for his generous and enduring commitment to justice and equality for all and the joy he received from his ‘behind the scene’ vantage point where he helped so many succeed.

Survivors include his husband David Huskey, brother and sister-in-law Robert and Marilyn Beck, sister-in-law Bo Beck, niece Terry Beck and nephews Mark Beck and Bobby Beck.

Bill and David were both raised in Ohio. Before moving to San Diego in 1981, Bill was an assistant professor at the University of Arizona and at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. He received his Ph.D. from The Ohio State University in 1975.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Bill Beck Memorial Fund at the Center, online at events.thecentersd.org/BillBeck. A memorial service will be planned at a later date.