Bill Nelson: 40 Years of Inspiration

As we reach our 40-year milestone, it’s important to reflect on how far we’ve come and who put in the work to help us get here. The fight for LGBTQIA+ rights has never been easy and takes a lot of hard work and dedication from motivated individuals. When it comes to our community in Dallas, we can’t bring up our queer history without mentioning the phenomenal Bill Nelson.

Our Bill Nelson was a powerhouse in LGBTQIA+ history

Bill was a prominent leader in the LGBTQIA+ rights movement in Dallas during the pivotal years of the AIDS epidemic. Here are some of his many accomplishments:

• President of the Dallas Gay Alliance, 1984–1987

• Dallas Gay Political Caucus, member

• Foundation for Human Understanding, member

• Founder of Razzle Dazzle Dallas, an annual fundraising event which continues to this day

• Founder of GUTS—Gay Urban Truth Squad—based on ACT UP out of New York, which raised public awareness through protests and site installations. 

• President of the Vickery Place Neighborhood Association

• Board of Directors for the Dallas Homeowner’s League

• Member of the Texas Human Rights Foundation

Bill was out and proud and bold and brilliant

Bill was everywhere, doing everything, tirelessly fighting for gay rights. Never a dull moment, his life was full of impressive events, including:

• In the Dallas Gay Alliance v. Parkland Hospital (City of Dallas) case (c. 1988-1990), Bill and members of the Dallas Gay Alliance sued the City of Dallas over discriminatory practices by the hospital towards AIDS patients. AIDS patients were put on waiting lists for health care, and some had died because of not receiving treatment. Hundreds of these patients were also assigned to the same doctor, which slowed treatment time.

• In 1985 and again in 1987, Bill ran for a seat on the Dallas City Council. In his first City Council run, Lori Palmer won the election. In the second run, Bill received 23,000 votes. During one of these elections, Nelson could not sign one of the candidate forms for the Council because, as an openly gay man, he could not abide by Texas Statute 21.06.

Bill passed away February 20, 1990 of AIDS-related complications. He was preceded in death by Terry, who died in 1988. Jean Nelson, Bill’s mother, participated in gay rights events in memory of her son until her death in 2016.

The Nelson-Tebedo Clinic was proudly named in their honor. The clinic provides culturally competent programs, including HIV and STI prevention services, PrEP, and gender-affirming care. Comprehensive prevention services include outreach to at-risk communities, HIV testing, STI testing and treatment, lab work, and vaccinations. The Center’s highly trained staff are experts in HIV and STI testing and treatment. The HIV testing program is focused on gay and bisexual men or other men who have sex with men (MSM.) Located at 4012 Cedar Springs Rd, Dallas, TX 75219, Nelson-Tebedo is right in the heart of the gayborhood and easily accessible to anyone that may need their services. You can call 214-528-2336 to set up an appointment.

Check out the LGBT Collections in the UNT Libraries Special Collections, which and generously funded by The Dallas Way. The digital collection contains letters, speeches, poetry, and memoirs, predominately dated 1971–1990, written by mother and son Jean and Bill Nelson. The corresponding physical collection is housed in the University of North Texas Special Collections.

You can help make a difference in your community too

If you’d like to donate to Resource Center and help keep Bill Nelson’s dream alive, visit With your help, we work to improve the lives of more than 62,000 people every year.

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