Wikipedia woes

From William A. Percy
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Wikipedia is supposed to be an encyclopedic repository of human knowledge, including short biographical articles about people who've had significant impact on society and its currents. However, I fear that the historical record of older gay activists is becoming a casualty of a long running battle between the opposing Deletionist and Inclusionist factions of the Wikipedia community.

Besides the entry on myself, which has been gutted, a recent effort by Wayne Dynes and Ed Boyce to succinctly record the biographical significance of the late Category:Warner, Authur was summarily deleted.

So that it is not completely lost, here is the article they had researched and attempted to post:

Arthur Cyrus Warner

Prominent in the gay-liberation movement, Arthur Cyrus Warner (February 14, 1918 - July 22, 2007) focused his considerable energies on legal reform to protect the civil liberties of homosexuals (John Lauritsen, "Arthur Cyrus Warner" in Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context, pp. 282-290, Harrington Park Press, 2002, New York) Crowned by successful efforts, first in his home state of New Jersey, to overturn anti-sodomy and other laws used to persecute gay people in several US states, he has now been largely forgotten in the prevailing paradigm to belittle everything before Stonewall.

Born in Newark, Warner for almost the last half century of his life lived in the house built by his socially ambitious parents in Princeton, abutting the Institute for Advanced Study. His mother born on a farm in Paynesville, Minnesota, and his father to a family engaged in the wholesale grocery business in Newark, both were of Russian-Jewish origin, a secret he kept until a few years before his death. Raised as a Presbyterian, he became in his later years a secular humanist, who regarded the homophilecause as being, on one level, a struggle against superstition, part of the unfinished business of the Enlightenment.

His mother hired the retired governess of the viceroy of Australia to bring up him and his older brother, who also went to Princeton and Harvard Law School. (Exaggerating his family's eccentricity, Arthur's brother who was married and had two sons, was murdered by his gardener). After receiving his AB degree from Princeton in 1938, Warner entered Harvard Law School. His studies there were interrupted by World War II, and he served in the United States Navy, attaining the rank of Second Lieutenant until he received an undesirable discharge stemming from homosexual conduct after being caught cruising for sex in Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C. Afterwards, he returned to Harvard Law School, where he earned his LLB in 1946. Although he succeeded, after a long legal battle, in having the Navy discharge changed to the status of honorable, the damage was done, and he was never able to practice law as he had fervently hoped.

As a result, Warner telling his mother that he had lost interest in law, he entered Harvard Graduate School to study English history, receiving his AM degree in 1950 and his PhD in 1960. While he briefly taught history at the University of Texas, El Paso, he lived most of his life as an independent scholar with his mother, maintaining many contacts from that base in Princeton (Lauritsen, John, Farewell to Authur Warner, , Pagan Press Books).

Arthur engagement with issues of homosexual civil rights began early, when in the late 1940s he started to attend meetings of a New York City group known simply as The League. From 1954 on he was active in the Mattachine Society of New York, serving as chairman of its legal department. Initially he chose to mask his identity under the name of Austin Wade. For a time Arthur was associated with Frank Kameny of Mattachine - Washington, D.C., who coined the phrase "Gay is good." Eventually, Warner and Kameny had a falling out over strategy, Arthur deploring the Stonewall Riots as too provocative. Each continued to work in his own way for gay rights, though becoming bitter antagonists of each other.

In 1971 Warner founded the National Committee for Sexual Civil Liberties (later renamed the American Association for Personal Privacy), a high-level think tank comprising lawyers, historians, theologians, and other professionals. From the beginning, Warner's focus, and that of the group he founded, was legal reform--especially the repeal of the sodomy statutes, which he regarded as the linchpin of all discrimination against homosexuals (Warner, Authur and Barnet, Walter, "Why Reform the Sodomy Laws?" Princeton: National Committee for Sexual Civil Liberties, 1971). He had been encouraged by the recommendations for decriminalization of homosexual conduct embodied in the Wolfenden Report in England (1957), and the Model Penal Code (MPC), a statutory text approved by the American Law Institute (ALI) in 1962. Among those closely associated with Warner in this work were Thomas F. Coleman, an attorney from California; Paul Hardman, an gay activist in San Francisco who published the California Voice weekly gay newspaper in that city for many years; and Wayne R. Dynes, chair of the Gay Academic Union.

To pay for his expenses and obtain donations for his organization, Warner also worked for the owner James Campbell, owner of the prosperous Club Baths chain who ran for Senator in Florida, who would donate a lot of money to Warner's organization in lieu of salary. Warner gave advice to the lawyers representing local managers of the baths about how to proceed whenever they got in legal trouble, which they often did.

Working largely behind the scenes, Warner and his associates achieved success in several individual states, including Nebraska, where Louis Crompton gave strong local support from his post at the university there, preparing the way for the eventual victory in the U. S. Supreme Court in the Lawrence case of 2003. ( Warner, Authur, "Non-commercial Sexual Solicitation: The Case for Judicial Invalidation", SexuaLaw Reporter, 1978, January-Marchm 4:1, pp. 1, 10-20) (Clendinen, Dudley and Sigourney, Adam, Out for Good: The Struggle to Build a Gay Rights Movement in America, pp. 96 and 259, 1999, Simon & Schuster, New York)

Warner's papers document his involvement in legal reform and other issues pertaining to homosexual civil rights. The bulk of them consist of legislative and court documents about cases affecting gay civil liberties, and related memoranda, correspondence, and writings. The papers, mainly covering the period from 1946 to 2000, are preserved in the Mudd Manuscript Library, Princeton University Libraries

Totally rewritten several times when he was unwell, his will directed that his funds be used to establish the Sentience Foundation, headquartered by his long-time accountant in Freehold, New Jersey (, which doesn't seem to have done much.

At my suggestion, John Lauritsen undertook the nearly impossible task of interviewing Warner for Before Stonewall, being consigned, as all guests were, to the maid's quarters of his mother's house, which Warner maintained as a sort of Victorian mausoleum to her. For most of the past half century, Arthur Warner lived in that house. Nothing in it changed since the deaths of his parents about four decades ago, except some of the books. He was particularly proud of the antique furniture: the tall clock and dozens of old and unusual table lamps, which he himself collected. But Lauritsen did learn and then retell tales that were decidedly un-Victorian in nature:

“His mother came from a background which, although educated, reflected the Victorian ethos in matters of sex. A a child, Warner was not told myths about where babies came from, and he was allowed to see biology books showing the birth of animals, and so on, up to the point of fornication. However, when he was put to bed, his hands always had to be on top of the blanket, even on the coldest nights. Because the windows were always open for health reasons, his shoulders also would be cold.
“Nevertheless, as with virtually all boys, he discovered the pleasures of masturbation, and at the age of seven or eight he did this several times a day, although without ejaculation. On one such occasion he was apprehended by his governess, who felt dutifully obliged to tell his parents. Early the next morning the case was presented to his parents, who had just returned from a trip. His mother, "who wore the pants," took charge. She was in a frenzy and told him that if he ever did this again he would be taken to the state prison at Rahway, "where the bad boys go." He was also told that if he continued to do this, he would certainly become crazy. He was shaken by these warnings and for a year remained "good and pure." “When nine, again found masturbating, he was driven the twelve miles to Rahway State Prison, ordered out of the car, and for about twenty minutes stood outside the car, screaming for forgiveness, finally given "one more chance."
“Warner's first sexual experience - mutual masturbation with a black man in an abandoned school yard - occurred when he was seventeen during his sophomore year at Princeton, and he ran away, terrified. In 42nd Street movies in 1938, he caught gonorrhea from a person he had met and gone home with - it was in the pre-penicillin days, and Warner suffered for eight weeks from sulfanilamide that was injected into the urethra.”

Indeed, Arthur Warner was a "dinge queen," in gay slang, a white preferring to have sex almost exclusively with blacks. He also loved driving and would travel to the deep South in one of his twin Nash cars of the exact same date which had seats that would recline into beds, looking for chain gangs along the roadway. Arthur would befriend the lonely, bored armed wardens to find out when certain prisoners would be released and meet them, knowing that they would be both horny and afraid to cause trouble.

Arthur's intense interest in Blacks led surreptitiously to my discovering an important aspect of my own family history. In (1989?), when I lived on Tremont street, Arthur Warner was sitting out on my step on a summer's when my neighbor Millie Commodore, who lived two houses down, happened to stroll by. The two struck up a conversation where Mrs. Commodore related how my Uncle Will (William Alexander Percy), surrounded himself with fetching teenage black servants, maintaining a very close relationship with them with obvious romantic overtones. This conversation made me realize the significance of this testimonial evidence for his homosexuality, which I later relayed to Wyatt Brown during his research of House of Percy. Though Wyatt Brown did not pursue this evidence as far as he should, even after he followed up with all of Commodore's friends in Greenville, claiming that it was not substantiated, he did reference it a footnote. Although Millie Commodore was featured as a narrator in the derived movie, Fatal Flood, the producers chose to ignore her testimony on this important aspect of Will's life. Nevertheless, if it were not for Arthur, I might never have known to pursue this evidence myself while Mrs. Commodore was still alive and this important aspect of Will's life might have been obscured forever.

In an obituary written by Lauritsen, Warner was remembered for the strength of his convictions and the unbridled nerve with which he expounded them.

Warner held strong opinions, and was never hesitant in expressing them. I vividly remember the monthly meetings of the New York Scholarship Committee, held during the 1970s in the apartment of Art History Professor Wayne R. Dynes. In response to what he perceived to be an incorrect or sloppy statement, Warner would command attention with the interjection: "Now just a minute!". He would then -- for many minutes -- patiently and ruthlessly analyze the offending statement, exposing factual errors, carrying faulty arguments to conclusions of manifest absurdity, and dissecting the underlying philosophical premises. On such occasions we were ultimately grateful, if a bit shaken or annoyed at the time.
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