US Stamps

By Michael Baadke

Born May 22: Harvey Milk

May 22, 2015 03:30 AM

  • The nondenominated (49¢) Harvey Milk commemorative stamp was issued May 22, 2014, at the White House. Milk was born May 22, 1930.

One year ago today, a nondenominated (49¢) forever stamp commemorating politician and gay rights activist Harvey Milk was issued in Washington, D.C., with a first-day ceremony at the White House.

Harvey Milk was born May 22, 1930, in Woodmere, N.Y., and enlisted in the U.S. Navy after graduating from the New York State College for Teachers in 1951. He served as a naval diving instructor, achieving the rank of lieutenant junior grade.

After returning to civilian life in New York, Milk worked as a teacher and as a financial analyst.

He moved to San Francisco in 1972 and opened a camera business in the city’s Castro district.

Active in human rights efforts and local issues, he became known as the unofficial "mayor of Castro Street." He won election as a San Francisco city supervisor within six years, one of the first openly gay elected officials in the United States.

During his tenure, he passed a gay rights ordinance and helped to defeat Proposition 6, a California state initiative that would authorize California public schools to fire teachers for being gay.

Milk’s efforts to overcome discrimination and secure equality for all citizens were cut short Nov. 27, 1978, when he and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone were assassinated at city hall by a former city supervisor.

President Obama posthumously awarded Harvey Milk the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009, and Time magazine named Milk one of the most influential people of the 20th century.

On the USPS retail website, which offers the still-current Harvey Milk stamp and related items, the United States Postal Service says:

"A commitment to serving a broad constituency, not just gay people, helped make Milk an effective and popular leader. He was an eloquent speaker with a winning sense of humor and was able to build coalitions between diverse groups. His achievements gave hope and confidence to gay people at a time when the community was encountering widespread hostility."

The Harvey Milk stamp (Scott 4906) shows a circa 1977 black and white photograph by Daniel Nicoletta.