Jim Duggins

  • Tuesday December 30, 2014
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Jim Duggins

December 21, 1933 – December 13, 2014

James H. Duggins, Ph.D., 80, of Rancho Mirage, California, passed away December 13, 2014, peacefully at home of heart failure. Born in Missouri to James and Mary Duggins, he led a life notable for extraordinary achievement and significance.

Mr. Duggins was a Navy journalist in the Korean War from 1951-1954, enlisting at age 17. Afterward, at age 22, he worked as a clerk in the prison population on Alcatraz Island, an account of which appears in his "The Rock and a Hard Place" in Love, Castro Street (Alyson Books, 2007). He then attended college on the GI bill, receiving a BA in English in 1960 from San Francisco State College, an MA in speech science in 1964 from San Francisco State University, and his Ph.D. in English education in 1970 from UC Berkeley.

He began his professional career in the Mission district, where he taught from 1962-1964, then at Laney College in Oakland from 1964-1969, followed by SFSU from 1969-2002, from which he retired as a full professor. A resident of San Francisco for 47 years, he was a member of the GLBT Historical Society, where he initiated the "Uncles" oral history project, vital oral histories of aging gay men of the Stonewall era conducted by him and others and now accessible through the Online Archives of California. A former board member of Lambda Literary Foundation, he played a key role in the creation of one of its major programs, the annual Emerging Writers Retreat, and created and funded the James Duggins Mid-Career Novelist Award, one of the most prestigious prizes awarded annually in LGBT literature. He was among the first to demand LGBT rights within the UC system. His lifelong passions were community service, volunteerism, and equal rights, and he supported organizations at the forefront of the struggle, in particular San Francisco's Horizons Foundation and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, as well as the aforementioned Lambda Literary Foundation. He volunteered at organizations especially in support of gay youth, including suicide prevention work. He was an active participant in Desert-Stonewall Democrats.

A noted writer, his early work includes co-authorship of Hooked on Books (Berkley), and Teaching Reading for Human Values (Charles Merrill) as well as articles for The English Journal , The Journal of Reading , and Wilson Library Journal . He was a well-known author and critic of historical fiction, having studied the craft under James Michener. His well-received novels include The Power; Slave Stealer; The Man Without a Conscience ; and The Possession of Sarah Winchester ( Smoke Tree Press). He was at work on a new novel, It's in the Cards, which will be published posthumously.

A resident of California's Coachella Valley since 2002, he was a member of National Teachers of English, International Reading Association, California Teachers of English, the California Reading Association, the original Palm Springs Writers Guild and the Authors Guild, as well as the Historical Fiction Novel Society. He spent time in the home he built in Oaxaca, Mexico, a city where he became an active part of a project to provide books to underserved youth. He was a major collector of Mexican art, from which he made donations to museums in the U.S. and Mexico, including the Palm Springs Art Museum.

Mr. Duggins is predeceased by his parents and two sisters, and beloved former partners John Smiddy and Rex Spinney; and he is mourned by former partner Jonathan Greene of La Quinta and a multitude of friends in California and Oaxaca. Donations in the name of James Duggins may be made to http://www.Lambdaliterary.org.