Larry Bagneris, Jr. will receive the Award for Lifetime Achievement at the 31st annual Gay Appreciation Awards.
A native of New Orleans, Larry Bagneris began his Civil Rights activities at the age of 16 as a student at St. Augustine High School. He took part in pickets in front of Maison Blanche Department Store protesting the Jim Crow policies of the retail giant. He participated in sit-ins at Walgreens in Gentilly Woods and other New Orleans mainstays such as the Frosty Top on Canal Street and Woolworth’s.
He was arrested for his efforts to seek equal treatment for people of color. More than once, Larry was taken to the Juvenile Center because he was too young to be booked into Central Lockup with the adult population. Larry took part in many mass rallies including a nighttime march from A. L. Davis Park to City Hall.
In 1963, he attended the National Conference for International Justice in Memphis, Tennessee with other students and priests from St. Augustine High School. He challenged the Monsignor of the Diocese of New Orleans to explain why Catholic Schools were still segregated. Several years later, when Archbishop Rummel was to receive an honor from the Vatican, Larry led a protest outside the hotel where the accolades were presented.
Larry served as President of the Negro Betterment Council of St. Augustine and worked with ‘Chink’ Henry and the Longshoreman’s Union during the Johnson-Humphrey bid for the Presidency. While demonstrating for the Voter Rights Act he was confronted by opposing, angry demonstrators and was taunted with the Confederate Battle flag. In 1967 he was the first Black elected to serve as Vice-chair of the Young Democrats of New Orleans.
As an out gay man, Larry experienced homophobia during a raid at the Stonewall Inn in New York in 1969. It was perhaps this incident that altered his course in the Civil Rights movement from emphasis on the rights of racial minorities to that of the gay community. It was also during this time that Larry worked as a volunteer for the first Annual Women’s Conference in Houston.
Larry’s gay activism included his participation in the campaign to ‘Stop the Briggs Initiative’ in California, which was aimed at firing gay teachers. He served on the Board of the First and Second March on Washington, D.C. for Lesbian and Gay Rights. Larry was a two-term president of the Gay Political Caucus of Houston, the chairperson of Gay Pride Week and the founder of the Gay Pride Parade in Houston. He also served on the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Larry was the first openly gay person elected as a delegate to the National Democratic Convention in NYC in 1980.
The 1990’s found Larry immersed in the confusion, turmoil and grief as the Gay community responded to HIV/AIDS. After accepting a job as a lobbyist for the N. O. AIDS Task Force, Larry organized a network to meet with every Senator and member of the House of Representatives in Louisiana seeking to educate political leaders and the public about HIV/AIDS.
Larry enjoyed a highly successful career in insurance and investments before becoming the head of the City’s Human Relations Commission. As Chair of the Commission, which is housed under the Mayor’s Office, Larry was responsible for receiving and mediating complaints of discrimination in Housing, Public Accommodations, and Employment for the city of New Orleans. Most recently Larry was elected to the Board of Directors of the International Conference for Gay and Lesbian Elected Officials. He secured New Orleans as the meeting place for the International Conference. Recently retired, Larry continues the fight for equality.
The Gay Appreciation Awards Gala will take place on Saturday, July 20, at Oz.