Remembering Lige & Jack — America’s Most Famous Gay Couple

In 1968, Jack Nichols and his partner Elijah “Lige” Clark began writing the weekly column “The Homosexual Citizen” for SCREW. It was the first LGBT-interest column to appear in a non-LGBT publication and the first to appear on mainstream, commercial newsstands. As a result of the column, Nichols and Clarks — “Lige & Jack” — became known as “The Most Famous Gay Couple in America”.

Meet Jack

Jack Nichols was an activist and key player in the gay rights movement through the 1960s. He led the first gay rights march on the White House in April 1965. He participated in the Annual Reminder pickets (early gay rights pickets) at Independence Hall in Philadelphia held every July 4 from 1965 to 1969. And he and his fellow activists successfully lobbied the American Psychiatric Association to rescind its definition of homosexuality as a mental illness.

Jack Nichols (1938-2005)

In 1967, Jack became the first American to openly discuss his homosexuality on national television when he appeared on “CBS Reports: The Homosexuals“, a controversial CBS News documentary hosted by Mike Wallace (currently streaming on The SCREW Channel exclusively on Roku). Though he allowed himself to be viewed on camera, he used the pseudonym “Warren Adkins” because his father was an FBI agent who would have lost his security clearance and his possibly even his job if they found out his son was gay.

The day after the documentary aired, Jack lost his own job at the International Inn in Washington D.C.

He used the name “Warren” in deference to one of his early lovers he met in 1961 while visiting his aunt and uncle in Neptune Beach, Florida. Nichols had acquired an early taste for simple, country-folk lovers and Warren was originally from West Virginia.

Jack’s passion for “hillbillies” would eventually lead him to the greatest love of his life, Elijah Clark…

Meet Lige

Elijah “Lige” Clarke was as country-folk-hillbilly as they come. Born in Cave Branch, Kentucky, an unincorporated community just outside of the small town of Hindman (population 707). He attended the Eastern Kentucky University before joining the U.S. Army which ultimately led him to Washington, D.C., where he worked for the Department of Defense (with all sorts of high-level security clearances) and where he met Jack.

And they fell in love.

Elijah “Lige” Clark (1942-1975)

“Homophobia”

Together, Lige & Jack began writing “The Homosexual Citizen” for SCREW in 1968 — the only publication with the cajones to publish them at the time. That was followed by a couple of books on same-sex lifestyles: I Have More Fun With You Than Anybody (1972) — which you can read online here — and Roommates Can’t Always Be Lovers: An Intimate Guide to Male-male Relationships (1974). And also in 1970, they partnered with SCREW publishers Al Goldstein and Jim Buckley to launch GAY — SCREW’s short-lived “sister” publication and “America’s First Weekly Homosexual Magazine.” Unfortunately, the world wasn’t ready for it yet.

SCREW #11 (May 9, 1969)

In a historic article for SCREW #12 (for the week of May, 9, 1969) Lige & Jack wrote about the fears felt by straight men that they might be considered gay by others, a fear their friend Dr. George Weinberg called, “homophobia”. Although originally coined by Dr. Weinberg, this was the very first time in history the word “homophobia” ever appeared in-print. Imagine that, the word was brand new just a short 55 years ago.

Gone But Not Forgotten

Lige was murdered on February 11, 1975 while on a trip to Mexico with a couple of gay friends. He was victim to a hate crime. Jack, heartbroken, went on to become a news editor for the San Francisco Sentinel. In 1997, he became Senior Editor for the online newsmagazine GayToday.com. He died of complications from cancer of the saliva gland in 2005. His- and Lige’s favorite song, Rosemary Clooney’s “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye” played in the background as he slowly left this life for the next, to be with the love of his life for eternity…

Lige & Jack — America’s Most Famous Gay Couple

With PRIDE MONTH upon us once again, we couldn’t bear the thought of not paying tribute to Lige & Jack and all they accomplished, not just with SCREW, but for the LGBTQ community as a whole. We celebrate PRIDE MONTH, in part, because of the contributions (and sacrifices) these two, beautiful men made, along with so many others then and now.

Happy Pride Month, friends! Keep fighting the good fight.

— SM

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