Brian J. Bergquist papers, 1971-2000
Papers of a gay activist in Boise, Idaho
Brian J. Bergquist: A Biographical Sketch
Brian Joel Bergquist was born on July 2, 1958, in Council Bluffs, Iowa, son of Reuben and Joan Bergquist. He grew up in Council Bluffs, where he won awards for debate and public speaking, acted in student plays, and served as student body president at Abraham Lincoln High School. In 1975 he moved to Evanston, Illinois, to attend Northwestern University and graduated in 1980 with a degree in communication, concentrating in radio, television, and film. While a student at Northwestern he went to work in its student center, and after graduation, from 1980 to 1984, was its facility and events manager. He was also active in theater, film, and radio work in the Chicago area. He developed weekly radio specialty shows for WNUR-FM, organized and produced for a student-run video production group, and designed and directed scenic and lighting installations for theater productions. Infected with the Hollywood bug, he moved to southern California in 1984 went to work in production there. He was in Hollywood only three years, however, before he applied for the position of assistant director and coordinator of conference services in the Student Union at Boise State University in Idaho. He wrote to the student union's new director, a former colleague freshly hired from Northwestern University: "You may wonder why I am interested in the position at Boise State University after leaving the staff at Norris Center to try my luck in Hollywood. To be blunt, I don't find the work here to be as personally or professionally satisfying....I miss the vitality, the inspiration, and the stimulation of being part of a University community."
Bergquist was hired at Boise State and went to work as part of the administrative team in the Student Union in 1987. He also quickly immersed himself in the activities of the local gay community. He was a founder of the advocacy and lobbying group, Your Family, Friends, and Neighbors (YFFN) and led the effort to organize the first Gay Pride parade through the city in 1990. Although the gay community in Boise had celebrated Gay Pride Week with a picnic and other low-key activities for several years, it had never staged such a public event. "The very idea of a Gay Pride Parade sends chills down the back of many in Boise...," he wrote in the November 1989 issue of Out!, Boise's gay newspaper. "But why a Gay Pride Parade?" He enumerated the reasons. "A Gay Pride Parade would create a focus for the community. It would create a spectacle. It would create momentum. It would create visibility. It would create controversy. It would create interest. It would cry out to the greater Boise community that we are here and we exist and we deserve to be able to have our day in the sun." He continued: "A Gay Pride Parade will help us to understand that we are part of a larger, national movement. A movement that is making progress. We are not an isolated island, but part of the great tide of human diversity." The parade was held in June 1990, with an estimated 350 marchers, the first of what became an annual event.
Three years after that first parade, a reaction to the growing visibility of the gay community came with the organization of a petition drive by a newly-formed group called the Idaho Citizens Alliance to place what was termed the anti-gay initiative on the ballot at the next general election. The initiative addressed a wide range of issues, from pro-gay books in public libraries to references to homosexuality in the classroom. Bergquist led the statewide effort to defeat the initiative, first as co-chair of the organization Don't Sign On, which urged citizens not to sign the initiative petition, and then through the No on One Coaltion, which campaigned against it once it was placed on the 1994 ballot as Proposition One. With a broad coalition of support, the proposition was defeated at the polls, though only by the slim margin of 3,000 votes statewide.
Brian Bergquist died of a sudden heart attack four years later during Gay Pride Week in Boise in 1998. He was memorialized in the pages of Boise's gay newspaper. A student lounge in the Boise State University Student Union was named for him. A wall display of photos, newspaper articles, and other items commemorates his life there. He was survived by his mother, a brother, and his partner, John C. Hummel
-- Alan Virta, 2011
The Brian J. Bergquist collection contains consists chiefly of personal papers and papers relating to his gay activism in Boise. It contains memorabilia from his high school and college days, his three years in Hollywood, and the files he amassed as a leader of Your Family, Friends, and Neighbors (YFFN), Don't Sign On, and the No On One Coalition in Boise. The YFFN and Don't Sign On files document the activities of those organization but also include subject files on related topics, collected jointly by Bergquist and his partner John C. Hummel. The collection also contains some personal memorabilia from John C. Hummel.
Brian Bergquist was a writer as well as an activist, and the collection includes numerous versions of scripts he wrote, both in college and in Hollywood. Also found within the collection are writings of a personal, introspective nature. Those include his coming-out letter to his parents in1989 (Box 1, Folder 7), written from Boise as he approached his 31st birthday, and also his journal from his college days, 1979-1980 (Box 2), with his thoughts about his sexuality, how' it impacted his personal relationships, and the complications of living his life at that time "in the closet" (as he termed it), out only to his closest friends. His writings chronicle his personal journey from recognition of his sexual preference and reflections about it to his emergence as a leader in the gay rights movement.
Collection number: MSS 176
Inclusive dates: 1971-2000
Size of collection: ca. 5 ft.
Processed by: Alan Virta, 2011
Series and Box List
Series I: Personal Papers
The personal papers in this series were donated by Joan Bergquist in 2002 and by John C. Hummel in 2004. Each folder is marked to distinguish the source.
Box 1: Personal papers
Folder 1 Tributes and obituaries, 1998
Folder 2 Resumes, 1985, 1987; College transcript, 1980
Folder 3 Personality profiles and assessments
Folder 4 Recollections by his mother, Joan Bergquist (2 pages), 1998
Folder 5 Correspondence: Letters to parents, 1976-1978
Folder 6 Correspondence: Letters to parents, 1984-1985
Folder 7 Correspondence: Coming out letter to parents, 1989
Folder 8 Correspondence: Letter from his father, Reuben Bergquist, 1985
Folder 9 Correspondence: Letters received, Michael P. Quinlan, 1984-1985
Folder 10 Correspondence: Letters received, Miscellaneous, 1976-1991
Folder 11 Correspondence: Cards received, Miscellaneous, 1984-1990
Folder 12 Awards and certificates, 1968-1976
Folder 13 Early political activism papers, 1972-1975
Folder 14 High school papers
Folder 15 High school memorabilia and clippings, 1974-1976
Folder 16 High school memorabilia: Drama, 1974-1976
Folder 17 High school memorabilia: Yearbook pages (photocopies), 1976
Folder 18 American Legion Boys State, 1975
Folder 19 VFW Voice of Democracy speech and memorabilia, 1976
Folder 20 College memorabilia (Northwestern University), 1976-1980
Folder 21 Memorabilia (so identified by Brian Bergquist)
Folder 22 Memorabilia: Ticket stubs, 1988
Folder 23 Memorabilia: Membership cards and licenses, 1975-1984
Folder 24 Collected poetry and quotations
Folder 25 Post Sound (Hollywood): Letters of application, 1985
Folder 26 Boise State University: Miscellaneous, 1988-1997
Folder 27 Boise State University: Application letters, 1987
Folder 28 Boise State University: Evaluations, 1995
Folder 29 Graphic design examples
Folder 30 The Community Center (Boise), 1989
Folder 31 Clippings: Gay activism, Boise, 1992-1997
Folder 32 Clippings: Human rights activism
Folder 33 Reference to his death in anti-gay article, and editorial response, 1998
Folder 34 Photos: Confronting Lon Mabon in the Idaho State Capitol
Folder 35 Photo: Snapshots
Folder 36 Photos: Negatives
Folder 37 Photos: 8x10
Box 2: Personal papers
Folder 1 Personal journal, 1979-1980
Folder 2 Notepad, spiral bound
Folder 3 Notepad, spiral bound
Folder 4 Tributes in Diversity (full issue, July 1998)
Folder 5 Association of College Unions Inquirer (bulletin of regional conference held at Boise State, 1992)
Folder 6 Northwestern University Class of 1980 freshman face book, 1976
Folder 7-14 John C. Hummel papers, see below Series V
Series II: Scripts and stories
Box 3 Play scripts and stories written by Brian Bergquist, donated by John C. Hummel, 2004.
Series III: Your Family, Friends, and Neighbors
Boxes 4-5 Papers from Bergquist's work with the lobbying and gay rights organization in Boise, donated by John C. Hummel, 2004.
Series IV: Don't Sign On
Boxes 6-8 Files, 1992-1994, compiled by Bergquist and his partner John C. Hummel while working with Don't Sign On and the No On One Coalition to defeat Proposition One on the Idaho ballot in 1994. Donated by John C. Hummel, 2004..
Series V: Papers of John C. Hummel
Personal memorabilia of John C. Hummel, plus a file relating to his work as a member and president of the Idaho AIDS Foundation, 1990-1991. They are filed in Box 2, with personal papers of Brian Bergquist.
Box 2: Papers of John C. Hummel
Folder 7 Biographical, John C. Hummel
Folder 8 Frederick C. Hummel obituary and funeral program, 1978
Folder 9 Idaho AIDS Foundation, 1990-1991
Folder 10 Miscellaneous correspondence
Folder 11 High school drama: Barefoot in the Park, 1977
Folder 12 High school term papers
Folder 13 High school clippings
Folder 14 Memorabilia, Miscellaneous