Friday, June 19, 2009

The Curious Case of Lester C. Hunt

GAY WISDOM for Daily Living...

from White Crane a magazine exploring
Gay wisdom & culture

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Today, June 19th

1312 - PIERS GAVESTON, French favorite of Edward II of England, was murdered on this date (b: 1284). The favorite, and probably the lover, of King Edward II of England, Piers was the son of Sir Arnaud de Gabaston, a soldier in service to King Edward I of England. Arnaud had been used as a hostage by Edward twice; on the second occasion, Arnaud escaped captivity, and fled to England with his son. Both then entered the royal household, where Gaveston behaved so well and so virtuously that the King declared him an example for his own son, Prince Edward, to follow, making him a companion of Prince Edward in 1300. Prince Edward was delighted with Gaveston -- a man skilled in the arts of war and military tactics -- who was noted for his wit, rudeness, and entertaining manner, and gave him many honours and gifts. The Prince also declared that he loved Gaveston 'like a brother.' Gaveston was also a close friend of Roger Mortimer of Wigmore, Gaveston being awarded the wardship of Mortimer's property after the death of Roger's father – this was a great honor for Gaveston, since the wardship of such an estate would normally be awarded to a nobleman, and is thus an indication of the regard both the King and his son held for Gaveston.

When Gaveston returned in 1312, he was faced with hostility. Thomas Plantagenet, 2nd Earl of Lancaster raised an army against Gaveston and the King, and on 4 May attacked Newcastle, where Edward and Gaveston were staying. They were forced to flee by ship to Scarborough Castle, leaving behind all of their money and soldiers, where they were appropriated by Lancaster. Edward then went south to raise an army, leaving Gaveston in Scarborough. Lancaster immediately brought his army up to threaten Gaveston and to cut him off from the King. Fearful for his life, Gaveston was forced to surrender to Aymer de Valence, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, who swore an oath to surrender his lands and titles to protect Gaveston. However, in Oxfordshire, Gaveston was captured and taken to Warwick Castle by Guy de Beauchamp, 10th Earl of Warwick. He was held there for nine days before the Earl of Lancaster arrived; Lancaster then judged, "While he lives, there will be no safe place in the realm of England." Accordingly, on 19 June, Gaveston was taken to Blacklow Hill (which belonged to the Earl of Lancaster), and killed by two Welshmen, who ran him through with a sword before beheading him as he lay dying on the grass. For more see the recent issue of our magazine at:
http://whitecrane. journal/2008/ 04/wc76-- -edward-i. html

1566 -
KING JAMES I of ENGLAND and VI of SCOTLAND was born on this date (d. 1625). Responsible for the version of the bible that bears his name, James was the son of a homosexual who was murdered in his bed at twenty-two, together with the page he was buggering. James, King of Scotland and England, was himself homosexual, but, understandably, unable to act on his own instincts. All of James' great loves were heterosexual men completely unable to return the love this unhappy man so desperately needed. Fewer heads in history were ever more uneasy wearing the crown. The joke that circulated about King James in his own day is telling: "Habuimus regem Elisabetham, habemus reginam Jacobum" >> "We have had King Elizabeth, now we have Queen James."

Under James, the "Golden Age" of Elizabethan literature and drama continued, with writers such as William Shakespeare, John Donne, Ben Jonson, and Sir Francis Bacon contributing to a flourishing literary culture. James himself was a talented scholar, the author of works such as Daemonologie (1597) and Basilikon Doron (1599). Sir Anthony Weldon claimed that James had been termed "the wisest fool in Christendom" , an epithet associated with his character ever since (and, I'm sure we need not remind you if you've been paying attention!.. .one of the essential archetypes of same-sex people across time and cultures in history). So the next time some fire and brimstone anti-Gay preacher starts quoting from the King James Bible, you make sure to inform him he's reading Gay poetry. It probably won't make him or her stop, but it may give them pause.

1900 - the American novelist LAURA Z. HOBSON was born on this date (d. 1986). Born the daughter of Jewish socialist immigrants, she graduated from Cornell University. In 1937, she decided to adopt a baby and a few years later in 1941 she became pregnant. After 1940 she devoted herself to writing. On 27 April 1947, her most famous work, Gentleman's Agreement, reached #1 on the The New York Times best-sellers' list. A later novel, Consenting Adult (1975), about a mother dealing with her son's homosexuality, was based on her experience with her son, Christopher.

But now we get to the story of Lester C. Hunt
On this date in 1954 LESTER C. HUNT committed suicide.

Who was Lester C. Hunt? Lester Hunt was a dentist and later a very popular two term governor from the state of Wyoming. Everything was great with Hunt and he won election to the United States Senate in 1948.

He was a pretty good senator too. Historians credit him for his being a bitter enemy to the redbaiting, constitution- shredding, Wisconsin Senator Joseph R. McCarthy. His criticism of McCarthy's anti-communist tactics marked him as a prime target in the 1954 election. It was unlikely that Hunt would lose election as he was so popular in Wyoming. [[How popular? ... You know that cute bucking bronco on the Wyoming license plate? Well, it was Hunt who placed it there when he was governor. This guy *was* Wyoming. Untouchable. ]]

Then in July of 1953 his twenty-year- old son was arrested for soliciting prostitution from a male undercover police officer in Lafayette Square right next to the White House.

[Side note: Lafayette Square was a very cruisey park in Washington for most of the 20th century. One can only imagine what a president could spy from the windows of the White House. If you're ever in DC -- it's statuary includes perhaps the most homoerotic sculptures in the city dedicated to a Gay hero of the American Revolution.]

Anyway, back to Hunt... Republicans learned about the senator's son and his arrest and in early 1954, Senator Styles Bridges of New Hampshire delivered a blackmail demand to Hunt: either he retire from the Senate immediately and not run for re-election or they'd go public with the story of his homosexual son's arrest. You see the Republicans wanted Hunt's senate seat and Wyoming had a Republican governor at the time who'd appoint a Republican to run as an incumbent. After some vacillation, Hunt announced on June 8, 1954, that he would not seek reelection. Eleven days later, Hunt shot himself in his Senate office, becoming the first congressman to commit suicide in the a Senate office building.

Although The New York Times attributed Hunt's suicide to "apparent despondency over his health", journalist Drew Pearson published a column stating that Senators Styles Bridges (R-NH) and Herman Welker (R-ID) had delivered the ultimatum to Hunt.

If this story sounds somewhat familiar it's probably because of the film version of a novel by Allen Drury. Drury was a congressional reporter at the time, and remembered the story when he later wrote his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Advise and Consent. In the novel, the senator is the homosexual who commits suicide rather than reveal a past "indiscretion. " In 1962 director Otto Preminger made the novel into a movie starring Henry Fonda, Charles Laughton, Peter Lawford and Don Murray as the senator who commits suicide. Most who saw the movie had no idea there was an actual story behind it all. The story of Lester C. Hunt and his son, whose homosexuality was so radioactive it could end not only his father's career but his life. And now you know the story of Lester C. Hunt and homophobia in the not so long ago.

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GAY WISDOM for Daily Living...

from White Crane a magazine exploring
Gay wisdom & culture

Share this with your friends...

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