Kevin James Snow – an advocate for LGBT equality and a GLAAD ally – died suddenly of a heart attack on January 6 while travelling to Dallas, Texas. Kevin was just 50 years-old. Kevin was born in Portsmouth, VA and lived in San Francisco. He served in the United States Navy, attended the University of Missouri at Kansas City, worked for part of his life as a stand-up comic, and served as Vice President of GPS-MIS for Bank of America in San Francisco. Kevin also holds a unique and significant place in GLAAD’s history. Former GLAAD staff member, Cathy Renna, reflected on Kevin’s role in shaping LGBT history:
One of the great cultural markers for LGBT visibility was Ellen Degeneres' coming out in 1997. One very unlikely place where the "coming out" episode of her show had the most impact was Birmingham, Alabama. GLAAD worked with local activists for weeks, and over 2500 people crammed into Bowtwell Auditorium to watch the coming out episode on April 30, 1997, via satellite.
The local ABC affiliate refused to air the show and the local community rose to the occasion. Tragically, Kevin Snow, the man behind what would become the largest LGBT event in Alabama history to this day, died suddenly [on Jan. 6].
Kevin was unapologetically out in Birmingham in 1997, no easy feat at the time, and as a stand-up comic with an activist's heart he was the ideal person to bring the community together for this event.
At the time I was Community Outreach Liaison for GLAAD, which was just getting its feet as a national organization, and with my colleague Don Romesburg, we worked with Kevin and other local activists on every aspect of the event and the ensuing media. Kevin, however, was the heart and soul of the organizing. His spirit, humor, energy and complete sense of pride and confidence in his home and the people of Birmingham were an inspiration to all of us. It was the first time the local LGBT community had ever been so visible and the effect on the entire city was extraordinary. Kevin - and fellow Birmingham native Cathy Belue, a local lesbian and ironically also an amateur stand up comic - became the faces of the gay and lesbian community it changed their lives forever.
I will never forget the look on his face when he took to the stage as the show was about it air, grabbing the mic, seeing the thousands of people there and beaming with joy. Kevin often said that was the proudest moment of his life, and I understand many also said that at his funeral. GLAAD and the entire LGBT community owe a great debt to Kevin for his brave contribution to our collective history.
The day he picked Don and I up at the airport in April 1997, as we descended into what felt like what was about to be an unpredictable, exciting adventure, Kevin handed me a card. It was a picture of the Vulcan, a statue that sits high over Birmingham. Inside, Kevin wrote "this statue is a symbol of the real Birmingham: tall, proud, head of cast iron and ass hanging out." Quintessential Kevin. I will miss him but will carry the memories of that time in Birmingham with me forever.GLAAD extends its most heartfelt condolences to Kevin’s family, including his husband Tim Williams, and we thank Cathy Renna for her poignant reflections about GLAAD's work with Kevin in 1997. Memorial donations can be made in his name to The Trevor Project, a 24/7 suicide & crisis prevention helpline for gay and questioning youth.