Tampa, Florida, native Richard Inman (1926-1985) is a unique figure in the early gay-rights movement.
He was married and divorced twice, moving to Miami, where he lived as a gay man. He faced arrests for patronizing gay bars, which may have contributed to the decline of his business as an owner of various properties. He wound up driving a cab before deciding to become political about his sexual orientation.
Inman founded the first Southern gay-rights org, the Atheneum Society, in 1963, a ballsy move. It would later be changed into a chapter of the Mattachine Society in order to bring his efforts into line with those of Frank Kameny's (1925-2011).
Inman's aggressive stance on gay rights riled politicians, was a magnet for attention and also attracted the ire of many closeted gay people, who didn't appreciate his posturing, which threatened to blow their cover. It is thought that many gay people actively worked with officials against Inman behind the scenes via letter-writing and complaints.
Gay activist Jack Nichols (1938-2005(, in Vern L. Bullough's (1928-2006) exhaustively researched Before Stonewall (2002), said of Inman:
Inman was the first Southerner to challenge anti-gay laws in the courts, to write in mass circulation publications about gay men and lesbians and to appear on local television and radio programs.
He was quite a character, and had no problem playing dirty to achieve his goals, including enlisting the aid of anti-gay forces when it would work to his cause's benefit. If he were alive today, he might well like Milo — he was take-no-prisoners on the issue of activism vs. education, but hated Communists and was in favor of the Vietnam War. He also was not in favor of pushing for gay marriage, adoption or the legalization of gay pornography, deeming them all no-big-deal issues in the face of overall acceptance or tolerance of gay people.
Owing to his reputation as an out gay Floridian, Inman was one of the first people ever to appear on TV as a self-professed gay man on April 19, 1966, when he was invited to be a guest on news program FYI's “The Homosexual” on WTVJ Channel 4 in Miami. The show was focused on gay men as child molesters, which may explain why Inman chickened out and claimed, once on the air, that he was no longer gay, even while arguing that children were safe from gay men.
I was a homosexual ... But I gave it up about, oh, I forget, some years ago, over four years ago. It's not my cup of tea.
— Richard Inman (1967)
After his poor showing on TV, Inman's power as a gay voice waned. He opened a gay bookstore that was raided for porn, but wound up beating the charges.
Still, the charges may have beat him — into submission.
Inman later moved to California. There are some records of people having seen him here or there post-1970, but for the most part, he disappeared. Author James T. Sears (b. 1951) has since revealed that Inman lived out the rest of his life in Long Beach, and died February 3, 1985.