FBI agent’s career was jeopardized by the Bureau’s discovery of gay activist son

FBI agent’s career was jeopardized by the Bureau’s discovery of gay activist son

The father of Mattachine Society of Washington co-founder Jack Nichols was censured for failing to disclosure this potential source of “embarrassment” for the Bureau

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Edited by JPat Brown

A pioneer of the contemporary gay rights movement was forced to use an alias to protect his father’s career. Jack Nichols, Jr., co-founder of the Mattachine Society of Washington, conducted most of his activism under the pseudonym “Warren Adkins” at the request of his father, Jack Nichols Sr.. The senior Nichols was a Special Agent at the Federal Bureau of Investigations, and believed his son’s sexuality and related advocacy would bring serious career repercussions.

According to records released to Emma Best as part of the Freedom of LGBTQIA+ Information project, Special Agent Nichols was right. On February 6th, 1966, Nichols Jr.’s stepfather William Southwick, called the Bureau to request information regarding the MSW, which took its name of an earlier gay rights organization FBI had previously investigated for alleged Communist ties a decade earlier. By so doing, Southwick inadvertently revealed the family ties between the activist and the agent.

Nichols, Sr.’s superiors were furious that he hadn’t disclosed this information, and interviewed him about the relationship. A contrite Nichols, Sr. explained that Nichols, Jr. was the product of an earlier marriage that had ended in divorce, and justified the omission on grounds that he hadn’t had much of a role in his son’s life. Nichols, Sr. also pointed to the efforts by both to keep the connection secret.

Nichols, Sr. admitted to seeing his son occasionally, and hoped to be able to continue to do so - in order to influence him to “think someday as a normal male” - but said he was willing to cut Nichols, Jr. out of his life entirely if the relationship threatened his job.

Nichols, Sr.’s superiors were unmoved, and maintained that his failure to disclose this “potential embarrassment” to the Bureau was “inexcusable.”

As such, they recommended severe consequences for Nichols, Sr.’s (in)actions, including a transfer from the Washington Field Office.

As for Nichols, Jr., a year later he was interviewed under his pseudonym on the documentary television series CBS Reports, and a couple years after that he co-founded the country’s first gay weekly paper. In 1973, he successfully lobbied American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.

Read the full file embedded below, or on the request page.

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