Harvey Milk was born May 22, 1930 in Woodmere, Long Island, New York. He became a successful Wall Street investment analyst and supported Barry Goldwater for president. Unhappy with the political scene, he decided that he wanted to be Mayor of San Francisco. His new found liberalism, his charisma, weird sense of humor, and belief in politics as theater, set the stage for his San Francisco political career. (http://www.notablebiographies.com/Ma-Mo/Milk-Harvey.html#b)
He didn’t agree with the strategy of the established gay politicians who worked to elect gay-friendly straight politicians.Harvey Milk set out on his own to represent the gay community in City Hall.
Harvey ran unsuccessfully for Board of Supervisors in 1973, and later for State Assembly against Art Agnos. He took advantage of every opportunity to make his name known and worked relentlessly for the issues he considered essential to the gay community. His dedication to the people of the Castro earned him the title “Mayor of Castro Street”. Finally in 1977, he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. (http://www.harveymilkstory.com/)
George Moscone was a state Senator and Mayor of San Francisco. Moscone’s working class background and empathy for working class people fueled his interest in civil rights for all people. As Mayor, he stood up for the poor, working class people and many minorities. One of his greatest successes as a Senator was the passage of a California Gay Rights’ Bill. He also fought for school lunch programs, which were enacted by Governor Jerry Brown. Moscone supported the Gay Rights Movement and helped activist Harvey Milk. He continually sought the support of the Board of Supervisors, but was often unable to get it. (http://www.harveymilkstory.com/)
Dan White was a typical all-American-boy born and raised in San Francisco. He was a policeman and then a fireman and then ran for Supervisor in the heavily conservative Irish-Catholic working class neighborhood known as District 8. He promised to restore traditional values to San Francisco city government. He promised to rid San Francisco of “radicals, social deviates, and incorrigibles”. (http://www.harveymilkstory.com/)
At that time, Supervisors were considered part-time employees and were paid $9,800 per year. White soon found that he could not support his family on that small salary. and in November 1978, having been in office less than a year, White submitted his resignation to the Mayor. There were 11 members of the Board of Supervisors. Six of them, including White, were conservative, and were able to block many liberal measures. The liberals, especially Harvey Milk, were elated at the news of his resignation. The mayor, a liberal, had the authority to appoint a replacement supervisor.
Dan White changed his mind shortly after the decision and wanted to keep his job, but Moscone was already on the verge to announce Harvey White as the replacement supervisor.
And so it was that on November 27, 1978, Dan White entered City Hall through an open basement window to avoid the metal detectors at the entrances. He went first to Moscone’s office and shot him in the chest and then delivered a bullet to the head at close range as the mayor lay dying on the floor. As he walked down the corridor to the Supervisors’ offices on the other end of the building, he reloaded his gun. He asked Harvey for a few minutes in private and led him into his former office where he slew him in the same manner including two bullets to the brain. (http://www.notablebiographies.com/Ma-Mo/Milk-Harvey.html#b)
Dan White left City Hall without further incident. He then called his wife, Mary Ann, and asked her to meet him at Saint Mary’s Cathedral, several blocks from City Hall. Together they walked to Northern Station, where he turned himself in.
San Franciscans were indescribably shocked when Board President Dianne Feinstein announced that the mayor and Milk had been killed and Dan White was the suspect. Feinstein was sworn in as the new mayor as the entire city mourned for leaders Moscone and Milk.
On May 21 the following year, White was convicted of voluntary manslaughter. The jury accepted a diminished capacity defense based on testimony that White was suffering from untreated depression. (http://www.harveymilkstory.com/)
In doing so, the jury rejected first degree murder charges. The so-called Twinkie defense is a widely accepted misinterpretation of White’s diminished capacity argument. Even the San Francisco Chronicle reported that White claimed his mind was fogged by too much sugar on the night of the murders. In reality, White’s new found junk food habit was offered as evidence of his depression, not as the cause of it.
Outraged San Franciscans responded to the court’s decision to slap White on the wrist for killings (7 year sentence) by rioting at City Hall, the “White Night Riot.” White was paroled in 1984 after serving just five years and a little more than a month behind bars at Soledad Prison. In 1985 he returned to San Francisco despite a request by Feinstein for White, the most reviled man in the City’s history, to stay away. (http://www.harveymilkstory.com/)