By: Shaofan Zhang (He/His)“Perhaps — I want the old days back again and they’ll never come back, and I am haunted by the memory of them and of the world falling about my ears.”Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the WindAs a research intern for the IHP program in the fall, I had the opportunity to immerse myself in the history of the LGBT community in the South, particularly in late 1980s Atlanta, through the newspaper, The Southern Voice. As a member of the new millennial generation, I often try to place myself in an era I wasn’t born in — no longer as a bystander but as a participant, examining the people, organizations, and events in that history. One of these, the Atlanta Gay Center, left a significant impression on me.A benefit at the Limelight Sunday will help pay for renovation of the Atlanta Gay Center at 931 Ponce de Leon.The Center was originally founded in 1976. Over three decades, it has provided not only various health counseling services to fight for AIDS crisis but also legal and social services, meeting space for the community, and a voice for civil rights for gays and lesbians through their publication, The News.Gay couple William Bill Gripp (left) and Michael Wilson (right) take a walk in Candler Park with their collie Harry, Atlanta, Georgia, October 7, 1987.People: William “Bill” GrippWilliam, born and raised in Illinois, and moved to Atlanta in the early 1970s. Realizing he could contribute to the gay community, he joined the Gay Center to help train their helpline. In the city, he became not only an activist but also pursued numerous hobbies. In an oral history interview, he stated, “I was raising birds, collecting antique cars, doing my work at the gay Center, and running my business. I’m happy to say I think that was the first openly gay counseling service in the city.” He also met his partner in the city, and the two lived together with their dog, Harry, in love for over thirty years.Publication: The NewsShortly after its founding, the Atlanta Gay Center began issuing its publication, The News. What started as a monthly newsletter of events and organizations had evolved into a bi-weekly news and entertainment publication, eventually becoming a monthly news review. It focuses on opinions and debates about homophobia, hate crimes, and various social issues within the gay community. It not only advocates for the human rights of the gay community through editorials but also sharply satirizes political statements through cartoons.William Bill Gripp (left), Lonnie C. King, Jr., and Richard Swanson (right), at house at 525 Parkwat Drive, they are using as the Atlanta Gay Center, Atlanta, Georgia, September 6, 1988.The Atlanta Gay Center closed around 2005, and in 2020, William passed away. The memories of the Center that belonged to him went with the wind. What will not gone with wind, however, is what the Center did for the community and the positive changes it brought to the city over the course of three decades. If I could go back to the place where the Center used to be, to the time when homophobic speeches and actions were rampant, I would love to say thank you to William and the Center. I believe that without the Center, there might not be the thriving gay pride community that exist today in the city.If anyone would like to learn more about William and the Center’s history, they can find more historical images at the Georgia State University Library, link: https:// Atlanta%20Gay%20Center/field/subjea/mode/exact/conn/and; listen to William’s oral history interview, link: Center’s documents are currently housed at the Atlanta History Center, link: learning-research/search-the-collections/federated-search-results filters=&s=%E2%80%9CAtlanta+Gay+Center%E2%80%9D&page=1Video resources:11/16/83 Benefit for Atlanta Gay Center, link: search_query=%E2%80%9C11%2F16%2F83+Benefit+for+Atlanta+Gay+Center%E2%80%9DNot Gone With Wind: William Bill Gripp and the Atlanta Gay Center was originally published in Invisible Histories on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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