If some people’s personalities are similar to their pets, then Charlie Brydon, a pioneering LGBTQ + activist and successful Seattle entrepreneur, had a lot in common with his beloved bulldog, Toto.
“Charlie was a bit of a bulldog,” says Pam Weeks, a longtime activist with the Lesbian Resource Center in Seattle. “He wasn’t put off if you disagreed with him about gay and lesbian civil rights. If you were a skeptic, he would tell you, “Oh, you need more information.” ”
Charlie Brydon died on February 9th at the age of 81. According to his family, the cause was complications from Alzheimer’s disease.
Weeks was an early ally of Brydon when Brydon, a network master, founded the groundbreaking Dorian Group in Seattle in the mid-1970s. The organization brought gay professionals together for public lunches. The idea for attendees was to share experiences and ideas on how to make Seattle more friendly for those who are LGBTQ +. (LGBTQ + stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer / questions, where + denotes everything across the spectrum of gender and sexuality.) At the time, inviting LGBTQ + Seattleites out of the closet was a novel step towards equality.
Brydon and the Dorian Group built bridges at these gatherings with local leaders such as Mayor Wes Uhlman, Police Commissioner Robert Hanson, members of the Seattle City Council and Catholic Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen.
“Many of the people in the group were desperate to be classified as gay,” said Randy Beitel, a Seattle attorney and a close friend of Brydon’s. “Being in the Dorian group, which is visible among other gays and lesbians and works for change, has reduced that stress.”
Brydon came to Seattle in 1974 and focused on advancing specific goals toward LGBTQ + rights by forming coalitions with politicians, the business community, and civic activists. He and his staff eventually built, with broad support, million dollar operations to prevent efforts to roll back hard-won housing and employment protection against gays and lesbians.
The first of these was Initiative 13, a measure to be voted on in the fall of 1978 in Seattle aimed at repealing regulations prohibiting discrimination. Brydon struggled with Citizens for fair employment handling fundraisers, polls, and media releases. I-13 was defeated.
In 1993, a nationwide campaign to restrict LGBTQ + rights encountered opposition from Hands Off Washington, which Brydon co-founded and who encouraged citizens not to sign petitions to put the proposed measure in the vote. The tactic worked.
Charles Frederick Brydon was born on June 21, 1939 in Summit, New Jersey, to Robert and Anna Brydon. His sister Barbara was the other member of their working-class family. When he reached 11th grade, Brydon was sent to a prep school in Georgia.
After graduating, he spent a year at the University of Miami before moving to the Citadel, a military academy in South Carolina. He joined the US Army three years later and received two bronze star medals for his service in Vietnam.
Brydon arrived in Seattle in time to help Uhlman defeat a recall vote in 1975. Brydon raised funds and organized a rally on a Washington State ferry. His alliance with the mayor, an advocate for gay rights, paid off in his mission to make Seattle better for LGBTQ + people.
“Charlie was the key to changing the gay and lesbian climate here,” says Beitel, “earlier than in most other places.”
A key element of Brydon’s involvement in the community has been his success in the insurance industry.
“Charlie was very brave to come out of business,” says former Washington governor Gary Locke, who first met Brydon in 1983 and later named him to the State Liquor Board. “I’m sure it has affected his insurance business. But people liked it so much that I hope it had minimal impact. “
Brydon “believed in work within the system,” says his niece Megan Tracey. “He thought it was important to have more activists on your face as well. But he wasn’t going to be the act up type. He was a strong advocate of local candidates in Seattle and nationally. A truly blue democrat. “
Brydon also played a major role in creating the Seattle Metropolitan Elections Committee, which trains political candidates on LGBTQ + issues. the Pride Foundation; and the National LGBTQ Task Force.
Brydon moved to Oakland, California three years ago to be with Tracey and her family while Alzheimer’s disease progressed.
“He was such a kind hearted man,” says Tracey. “He was thrilled that people are treated fairly for who they are. He’s spent his life trying to achieve this. “
In addition to Tracey and her wife Lili Cook, two other nieces survive, Anna Hartman (husband Scott Hartman) and Kathleen Bulger (husband Michael Bulger); and several great nieces and great nephews.
Donations can be made on Brydon’s behalf to the Greater Seattle Business Association Scholarship Program, a group Brydon co-founded. A memorial is being planned.
Brydon is buried next to his longtime partner David White, who died of AIDS in 2003, in Lake View Cemetery on Capitol Hill.