Eldon Murray Papers, 1938-2007


Eldon Murray was born on March 1, 1930 to Lawrence Gilbert Murray and Eleanor Agnes Murray (née Hobson) in Vincennes, Indiana. Eldon was the youngest of four children born to the couple, who had separated several months before his birth. Siblings included Rosalee, Robertine, and George. Upon graduating from Lincoln High School in 1948, he moved to Chicago, where he worked various jobs and, for a brief period, attended evening classes at Northwestern University. In September 1951, Murray enlisted in the U.S. Army, then served in Korea as a forward artillery officer. At the end of his service, he returned to Chicago and took up a career in finance. He lived there until the mid-1950s, when he relocated to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

In fall 1970, Murray attended meetings of the Gay Liberation Organization, a recently formed student organization at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, at which he met Alyn Hess, Donna Utke, Shelia Sullivan, and others who would become close friends and allies in the gay rights movement. In early 1971, GLO-UWM reorganized itself as the Gay Peoples Union and emphasized its identity as a resource for the entire local community. Distancing itself from the radical politics of the New Left, GPU adopted a politically moderate approach to social change, emphasizing education and legal reform. The organization actively embraced mainstream and alternative media outlets in order to educate the general public about homosexuality. Murray edited the organization's newsletter, GPU News, from 1971 to 1981; participated in the production of Gay Perspective, a half-hour radio program broadcast locally from 1971 to 1972; and spoke eloquently on the topic of gay rights at numerous public events.

Following the first reported cases of AIDS in Wisconsin in the early 1980s, Murray was instrumental in raising funds for the Milwaukee AIDS Project, which was later reorganized as the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin. In December 1993, he founded SAGE/Milwaukee, the first organization in Wisconsin dedicated to serving the needs of older gays, lesbians, and bisexuals. He served as the board chair from 1993 to 2003 and represented SAGE/Milwaukee on an advisory board to the Commissioners of the Milwaukee County Department on Aging.

Murray received local and national awards for his work in the LGBT community, such as Pridefest Milwaukee's Stonewall Award and the Human Rights League's Cream City Brick Award. He was elected to the Cream City Business Association's Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in 1986. In 1998, ONE Institute and the International Gay and Lesbian Archives recognized him as one of thirty-two "pioneers of the movement."

Murray passed away on March 5, 2007, at the age of 77.