Skip to content

Photo of Bill Jones his son Aaron.

  • Print

Gay civil rights activist dedicates Rainbow Resource & Study Room at his alma mater

Bill Jones ’51 was the first single man in California to adopt a child
Aug 5, 2015

Fulfilling a dream of gay civil rights activist and alumnus Bill Jones, University of the Pacific this weekend will dedicate a new Rainbow Resource and Study Room in the William Knox Holt Memorial Library on the university’s Stockton campus. The dedication is 2-4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 9.

“I believe it is important to offer LGBT students an on-campus place where they can learn more about their community’s history, meet others who are like them, and have a place where they feel at home,” Jones said.

Jones himself, now 87, occupies an important place in that history. In 1969, he became the first single man in California to adopt a child. In the mid 1970s, when such businesses were still rare, he owned and operated a social club in San Francisco that catered to gay, lesbian and heterosexual customers. In 2004, during a month-long window when same-sex marriage was legal in San Francisco, he performed 457 weddings as a volunteer marriage commissioner.

“This new resource room honors the legacy and impact of the LGBT community and reflects Pacific’s commitment to inclusiveness,” said Patrick Day, vice president for Student Life.  “It will provide a dedicated space for students, faculty, staff and community members to learn, collaborate, explore and understand one another in an educationally supportive environment.”

Jones, who earned a degree in art and education from Pacific in 1951, publicly proposed the idea of an LGBT resource room in a 2004 article in Pacific Review, the university’s alumni magazine.

In the article, Jones credited Pacific professors with imbuing in him “an embedded sense of morality and justice.” But he also recalled feeling lonely and apart during his college years.

Rainbow Room Plaque
Example of the plaque to be placed in the Rainbow Room
Click image to view full size

“The shame and alienation I felt as a student are feelings I don’t want any student on this campus to experience,” he said.

To that end, Jones proposed a place where students could learn about the proud history of gays and lesbians in California, modeled after the James C. Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center established at the San Francisco Library in 1996.

Plaques in the new Rainbow Resource & Study Room honor the memory of Jones’ son, Aaron Hunter Jones, who died in young adulthood. Another plaque displays this message from Jones:

“After the storm’s thunder, lightning, and icy rain of ignorance, misinformation, misconception, and prejudice comes to an end, the brilliant sun of insight and understanding comes out and we are awestruck by the beauty of the glowing rainbow – a rainbow of sexual preferences and identities.”

In addition to Jones, significant figures in LGBT history who have studied or taught at Pacific include U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is the longest-serving active faculty member at the Pacific McGeorge School of Law, and former San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, who graduated from Pacific in 1953.

Moscone’s papers are housed in the Holt Atherton Special Collections in the library, two floors below the new resource room. 

Tags for this article:

Join University of the Pacific on: Facebook Twitter Instagram LinkedIn Youtube