April 24, 2017

Advocate of Gay Rights ‘Chesterfield Man” Stabbed to Death

 The man on this cigarette kills ad is unknown. There were ads that resemble Bruce but not being sure did not want to just place a cigarette ad even for a brand that is not being use.

A Chesterfield County man found fatally stabbed in his apartment Friday afternoon was an early advocate of gay and lesbian rights in Virginia and a registered lobbyist for the movement in 1981 at the Virginia General Assembly.

Bruce M. Garnett, 67, had been dead for several weeks when police were called Friday to check on his welfare and found him deceased inside his residence in the 700 block of Chinaberry Drive, Bill Garnett, the victim's older brother, said in a phone call from Malaysia, where he lives.

Bill Garnett said police advised his family that his brother had been fatally stabbed. 

Chesterfield police on Monday afternoon confirmed the victim's name and cause of death. His death is being investigated as a homicide, police said.

"We don't have any idea (what happened)," Garnett said. "He was retired and he just got his first social security check in February. He was looking forward to doing some things that he'd never been able to do."

Garnett said his brother, who was gay, was an early pioneer for gay rights in Virginia and helped form the Gay Rights Association in Richmond in 1977.

"He was an activist in a time when it would be very difficult to be an activist," Garnett said. "Things have changed a lot in four decades. I think when he was doing that it took a lot of courage."

According to a February 1978 newsletter by the Richmond Gay Rights Association, Garnett was the "first openly gay man to lobby the General Assembly."

In an April 5, 1978, story in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Garnett spoke before the Richmond Commission on Human Rights, saying that if the rights of homosexuals were not protected, "they would have to remain in the closet, and that's a damned place to be."

He argued that homosexuality isn't illegal, and the then illegal act of sodomy applied to some heterosexuals as well as homosexual acts. "A heterosexual isn't known to commit sodomy any more than a heterosexual is known to commit rape," he said.

Garnett's remarks came as the Human Rights Commission was considering whether to include sexual orientation in an anti-discrimination proposal it was considering. Three Baptist ministers, who also spoke at the proceeding, said homosexuality is sinful and immoral, and therefore homosexuals should not be included in the anti-discrimination measure.

"He spoke on behalf of gay and lesbian rights as far back as 1977," Bill Garnett said, "and was a registered lobbyist for that movement in 1981 at the Virginia General Assembly.

"Four decades ago his passion, courage and energy helped the cause of gay rights to come out of the closet."

Garnett said his brother had worked a number of jobs, including as a computer programmer and an employee of Reynolds Metals. His last position was with Kroger, where he worked the night shift, Garnett said.

"He had over the years become rather solitary and suffered medical problems," said Garnett, who has lived in Malaysia for the past eight years and last had contact with his brother in February.

"Bruce was a good person," Garnett said. “He was an Eagle Scout and he once received from the Governor of Virginia a commendation for saving a boy's life."

 Bruce Garnett, Times Dispatch 1978

Garnett was one of two Scouts who on July 9, 1968, was presented the Certificate of Heroism by then-Gov. Mills E. Godwin Jr. for rescuing two young boys from drowning in the Falling Creek Reservoir, according to a story in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The award was Scouting's second highest honor for heroic deeds.

Garnett, then 18 and a member of Sea Explorer Ship 863, pulled an unconscious boy from 25 feet of water on July 28, 1967, after he heard the youngster screaming for help, according to news accounts.


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