Charleston gay rights leader and professor Tom Chorlton died Jan. 5 at the age of 67. (Photo copyright Washington Blade; used with permission.)

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As the community celebrated great legal gains in the realm of marriage, it also felt keenly the loss of several community leaders.

Early in the year, Charleston gay rights pioneer Tom Chorlton passed away on Jan. 5 at the age of 67 from complications associated with leukemia ( Chorlton was an assistant professor of political science at the College of Charleston, had been involved in LGBT advocacy and politics for two decades from the mid-70s and early-1990s in Washington, D.C., where he helped found the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Democratic Clubs. He was also the first openly gay candidate for a seat on the Washington, D.C., City Council in 1988, running as a candidate for the D.C. Statehood Party.

In April, the Charlotte Royals lost Allen McCarthy, a founding member of the rugby club, who died on April 14 ( McCarthy was described as the “heart and soul of the Royals’ first few years.”

Later, on Oct. 30, early Charlotte LGBT pioneer Don King died at the age of 72 after a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer. As an early leader in Charlotte’s LGBT community, King played a pivotal role in shaping community priorities, needs and goals. Beginning in the mid-to-late 1970s, King helped to organize and lead organizations like Dignity and Acceptance, early LGBT support and social groups. King was remembered in a fitting memorial tribute and celebration of life on Nov. 23. See our coverage online at

Other deaths were newsworthy, too, though we doubt the community shed many tears for these folks. Longtime pain-in-our-backside hater Fred Phelps, founder of Westboro Baptist Church, died on March 19 at the age of 84 ( And Mecklenburg County’s own anti-gay Republican leader Dan Ramirez died three days earlier on March 16 ( Ramirez had been known for his anti-gay stances and ran for the Mecklenburg County Commission on a heavenly anti-gay platform.

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.