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Slater, Don (1923-1997)  
 
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An early leader in the struggle for glbtq rights, Los Angeles activist Don Slater was sometimes at odds with others in the movement but never wavered in his devotion to the cause.

Donald Slater lived most of his life in the environs of Los Angeles. He and his twin brother, Harvey, were born in Pasadena on August 21, 1923, but their parents, originally from Connecticut and later having sojourned in West Virginia, continued their peripatetic way of life, moving from one town to another in southern California as his father worked at a succession of jobs as a coach in YMCAs and Boys Clubs.

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Slater graduated from Chaffey High School in Capistrano Beach in 1942 and, like many other young men of his age, joined the military in the wake of Pearl Harbor. He was inducted in February 1943 and, because he was already experienced in skiing, was sent to Camp Hale, Colorado for training as a ski trooper. His military service was short-lived, however; a bout of rheumatic fever led to his being discharged in October of the same year.

Taking advantage of an Army program that paid his tuition, Slater enrolled at the University of Southern California in February 1944. At around the same time he found the love of his life, Antonio ("Tony") Reyes. The pair met one night in Pershing Square in Los Angeles, where they were both cruising.

Decades later, Slater recalled the scene: "We kept skulking around in the underbrush of the square, and, AAGH!, bumping into each other. 'What! You again!' Finally we couldn't stop laughing, and we decided we must be meant for each other, and we never changed our minds."

A short while after getting together with Reyes, Slater brought him home to meet his family, to whom he came out at the same time. His mother and three siblings were dismayed, but his father, despite having converted to Mormonism and becoming deeply religious, was more accepting, saying, "I wish this were not so, but since it is, I'm pleased you have made such a wonderful choice in your partner." He made it clear that Reyes would always be welcome in their home. Thereafter, Reyes was included in all the Slaters' gatherings and, he recalled, was treated "as a member of the family."

In his years at USC, Slater became part of the Los Angeles "gay underground," frequenting rather sleazy Main Street bars, where he enjoyed watching drag performers. He was not a particularly diligent student but had nearly completed his degree in English literature in 1948 when he was again stricken with rheumatic fever. He received permission from the Army to postpone his final term.

During his time off and after he was on his feet again, Slater traveled extensively--but cheaply--working in the galley of a freighter. When the ship docked, Slater was able to visit port cities throughout Europe.

When the voyage was over, Slater returned to college and completed his bachelor's degree, specializing in the Victorian novel.

In the early 1950s Slater and Reyes attended several meetings of the Mattachine Society, but, he stated, they were disappointed by the organization and did not join. Instead, they became part of an affiliated group that founded ONE, Incorporated. Among the association's goals, as enumerated in its Articles of Incorporation, were "to publish a magazine dealing primarily with homosexuality from the scientific, historical, and critical point of view, . . . to promote among the general public an interest [in], knowledge and understanding of the problems of variation, . . . [and] to sponsor research and promote the integration into society of persons whose behavior and inclinations vary from current moral and social standards."

The Articles were adopted on November 15, 1952 and officially signed by Reyes, Dale Jennings, and Martin Block on behalf of the group.

The first issue of ONE Magazine--24 pages long--rolled off the presses in January 1953. Its contents included an article on harassment by police, other news stories, several book notices, a poem, and a letter to readers asking for their support.

Before ONE could receive support, it needed to develop a readership base, and since news dealers were reluctant to stock it, ONE members took on the sales job themselves, making the rounds of gay bars and encouraging patrons to spend a quarter for the magazine.

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