Jim Duggins

1933 – 2014

It is with profound sorrow that we announce the passing of one of the foundational figures in the history of Lambda Literary, James Duggins, Ph.D.

A former board member, his presence during the latter and most formative years of Lambda Literary was vital for its very survival. His memory will live on forever with his role in the creation of the annual Emerging Writers Retreat, and in the Mid-Career Novelist Award, one of the most prestigious prizes awarded annually in LGBT literature.

Jim led a life of extraordinary achievement and significance. A Navy journalist in the Korean War, he afterward graduated from San Francisco State on the GI Bill and received his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley. He began his teaching career in one of the toughest areas of San Francisco, the Mission District, then taught community college, and retired as a full professor from San Francisco State.

He was among the first to join the fight for LGBT rights in the UC university system, a crusader for partnership benefits. His lifelong passions were community and equality and he became a philanthropist extraordinaire in support of the community he loved: a major donor to Horizons Foundation, NCLR, Lambda Literary, and other organizations he deemed to be at the forefront of the struggle for our civil rights.

A noted and notable writer and critic of historical fiction, he studied the craft under James Michener. His early work includes co-authorship of Hooked on Books (Berkley), and Teaching Reading for Human Values (Charles Merrill). He wrote many articles for academic journals such as The English Journal, The Journal of Reading, Wilson Library Journal.

His more current published work includes “A Rock and a Hard Place,” an account of his year as a clerk on Alcatraz in 1952 (yes, he met the Birdman) which appears in Love, Castro Street (Alyson). He is the author of a number of well received novels: The Power; Slave Stealer; The Man Without a Conscience; and The Possession of Sarah Winchester (Smoke Tree Press). His reviews and ratings of historical fiction are pervasive throughout the internet.

Jim died unexpectedly and peacefully at his home in Rancho Mirage in the beautiful California desert over the weekend, a week short of his 81st birthday, surrounded by the Mexican art he lovingly collected over the years. He was a close friend of Lambda Literary, a man with an enormous generous heart who loved dearly the people around him and was dearly loved in return. We will miss him.


Photo via jimduggins.com

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9 Responses to “In Remembrance: James Duggins”

  1. 15 December 2014 at 6:55 PM #

    Thank you, Katherine, for this beautiful and heart felt tribute to an outstanding supporter and warrior for the LGBT community. He will continue to be an inspiration through his legacy.

  2. 16 December 2014 at 4:08 PM #

    James Duggins made a difference in the world. We are fortunate to have had him with us, and for us, and we will not forget him.

  3. 16 December 2014 at 5:20 PM #

    His kindness was greatly appreciated. What a wonderful man.

  4. 19 December 2014 at 12:38 PM #

    Such a loss, but what an inspired and inspiring life. Thank you, Katherine, for the tribute.

  5. 19 December 2014 at 9:32 PM #

    He make such good things happen for a whole lot of people. I’m thinking of him, and of all of the books — and writers — he helped make more room for in the world.

  6. 20 December 2014 at 2:24 AM #

    I am so sorry to hear of Jim’s passing. I hadn’t yet had the opportunity to meet him in person, but enjoyed his writing. What a terrific life he led – and he’s an inspiration to all of us.

  7. 20 December 2014 at 11:34 AM #

    I remember meeting Jim during his time at the Gay & Lesbian Historical Society of Northern California, where — among other things — he initiated the “Uncles” oral history project. Many of those important oral histories — conducted by him and others — are now accessible through the Online Archives of California. He was always very helpful and supportive when I was developing the James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center at the San Francisco Public Library, as well as for my personal projects. Katherine and I were delighted to include in “Love, Castro Street,” Jim’s reminisces of working on Alcatraz. Most recently, I was honored to be one of the judges for the 2013 James Duggins Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist Prize. Jim leaves an important legacy. I will miss him.

  8. 21 December 2014 at 10:49 AM #

    As a young kid just starting out in the literacy profession at SF State Jim was the type of mentor who helped me take a number of important steps on the way to the professoriate. I will miss his wisdom, his professional knowledge, and his sense of humor. I will think of him every time I tell a student that he or she really needs to find a copy of Hooked on Books to really understand how to use texts with students so as to make a difference. Jim made a difference.

  9. 29 December 2014 at 11:03 PM #

    Thank you, Katherine, for this lovely tribute. While our long friendship did not revolve around academia, I was fortunate enough to be a part of a large circle of friends whose main interests revolved around more earthier pleasures! Travel, food, drink, laughter, o, dear God, the laughter! Contrary to my mothers words, I preferred to heed his, “Nothing in Moderation!”

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