By Susan Englander
Howard Grayson, 66, died suddenly from heart failure on Thursday, September 29, 2011. His death leaves the San Francisco progressive movement bereaved. Howard was a gentle and compassionate soul with a very good sense of humor and an easy smile.
Yet, Howard could be quite outspoken at events and meetings, some of which he would plan and organize himself such as candidate debates. Through it all, Howard never steered away from his solidly progressive instincts.
Born in Washington, D.C. in 1945, Howard spent his youth embracing the alternative communal life. It included living as an “out” gay man before most were ready to accept such openness.
During the civil rights era of the 1960’s, he joined the Black Panther Party and participated in anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, including the hugely significant “Confront the War Makers” protest at the Pentagon in 1967.
In the 1970s, Howard moved to New York City during the heady days of gay-sexual liberation. He worked on the staff of the Anvil, one of New York’s most illustrious gay bars.
Still a young adult, Howard moved to San Francisco several decades ago where he threw himself into the city’s vibrant political life.
Prior to his death, he was a member of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, a retiree from SEIU-UHW (Home Care Division), an activist in Senior Action Network and California Alliance for Retired Americans, and a delegate to the San Francisco Labor Council, once serving as a Trustee for that body. Howard was also a vocal advocate against poverty and homelessness in San Francisco, lending his tactical support to many direct action housing takeovers by Homes Not Jails and Creative Housing Liberation. He brought joy, love, and tremendous gusto to all of his endeavors.
While committed to many causes, he was very proud of his career as a professional home care provider and in that work gave comfort, care, and compassion to many elderly and disabled persons over the years. To his last client, his close friend and fellow labor and gay activist Howard Wallace, he offered devoted attention that included his patience, good humor and culinary skills.
Howard is survived by his brother, John Grayson, and many sorrowful friends and comrades who will keep him long in their hearts and memories.
We’ll miss you, Howard!