Kepner, Jim Papers

Span Dates: 1940-1997
Bulk Dates:
Volume: 40.4 linear feet


Manuscripts, correspondence, diaries, minutes and organizational records,notebooks, science fiction writings, poetry, erotica, educational material,photographs, computer disks, textiles, ephemera and memorabilia from writer, historian and gay activist, Jim Kepner (1923-1997). Founder of the Western Gay Archives (later renamed the National Gay Archives and then the International Gay & Lesbian Archives), Kepner began collecting gay- and lesbian-related material in the 1940s and began writing about the gay and lesbian community in the 1950s. A highly active participant in the gay liberation movement, Kepner has been a founding member or board member of numerous gay and lesbian rights organizations, including ONE, Incorporated, PRIDE (Personal Rights in Defense and Education), Gay Community Alliance, Gay Liberation Front, Metropolitan Community Church, Christopher Street West, Southern California Council on Religion and the Homophile, and the Gay Community Services Center. The bulk of this collection consists of Kepner's writings, including autobiographies; non-fiction books and essays about the gay and lesbian community; science fiction publications; journals and notebooks; as well as fiction, poetry and erotica. The collection also consists of Kepner's extensive correspondence files; class material for courses he taught in gay and lesbian studies; and minutes and organizational material for the many organizations in which he has been involved throughout his life.

Hist/Bio Note

James Lynn Kepner Jr. was found as an abandoned infant in Galveston, Texas, on September 19, 1923. He was adopted by a railroad worker, James Kepner Sr., and his wife, Mary Christina Peterson Kepner. By 1930, Kepner gained a sister, Ella Nora. Upon graduating from Ball High School in Galveston, Kepner worked in a variety of jobs,including Western Union messenger, waiter and office clerk. Around 1942, Kepner moved to San Francisco with his father and sister, where he began seeking out gay and lesbian communities and any books or materials related to gay and lesbian issues. During his time in San Francisco--and for two years in New York--Kepner worked as a copy boy or film reviewer for newspapers such as the New York Daily Worker (1946-1948) and People's World (1948). In addition, Kepner also became actively involved in science fiction fan clubs, and in 1943-1945, he edited his first publication, Toward Tomorrow, a science fiction fan magazine. In 1950, Kepner co-founded and operated the bookstore, Books on Telegraph Hill, but the company went out of business in 1951. Following the close of the bookstore, Kepner moved to Los Angeles, where he continued to collect gay and lesbian material and stay involved with science fiction fan groups. Kepner also began attending meetings of a gay and lesbian "homophile" group known as the Mattachine Society. In 1953, a political schism in the Mattachine Society led Kepner to depart from Mattachine, and he began working with ONE, Inc., which produced the national homophile publication, ONE Magazine. For several years, Kepner continued his involvement with ONE, serving on the magazine's editorial board; writing articles often under pseudonyms, including Lyn Pedersen, Dal McIntire and Frank Golovitz); expanding ONE's library; developing classes in gay studies; and helping to start ONE's scholarly journal, ONE Institute Quarterly of Homophile Studies. In 1960, Kepner attended Los Angeles City College and also worked as a cab driver. By the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s, Kepner became increasingly involved with the development of the gay and lesbian liberation movement. He was a founding member or board member of numerous gay and lesbian organizations, including ONE, Southern California Council on Religion & the Homophile (CRH), Personal Rights in Defense and Education (PRIDE), Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), Gay Community Alliance (GCA), Society of Pat Rocco Enlightened Enthusiasts (SPREE), Christopher Street West (CSW), Gay Liberation Front (GLF), Gay Community Services Center (GCSC), IMRU gay radio collective, Celebration Theatre, and others. At the same time, Kepner increased his efforts in collecting gay and lesbian material and writing about gay and lesbian experience. In 1966, Kepner created and published Pursuit & Symposium, a homophile magazine that printed only two issues due to financial problems. For two decades, Kepner continued to write articles and columns for several (primarily gay) newspapers and magazines, including The Advocate, Entertainment West, Frontiers, In Touch, and Newswest. Developing his reputation as a gay historian, Kepner also began making presentations on gay and lesbian history and teaching a course on gay and lesbian studies at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Experimental College. In 1972, after amassing a large library of gay- and lesbian-related books and other materials in his Torrance, California, apartment, Kepner began allowing researchers access to his collection. In 1975, he named it the Western Gay Archives. In 1979, a board of directors was created, the collection was incorporated as the National Gay Archives,and the materials were housed in an office on Hudson Street in Hollywood, California. The archives changed its name to the International Gay & Lesbian Archives: Natalie Barney/Edward Carpenter Library in 1984. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Kepner continued to operate the International Gay & Lesbian Archives, participate in gay and lesbian activism, and write several manuscripts on gay and lesbian history. One of his books, Rough News, Daring Views, was published by Haworth Press in the last year of Kepner's life. Kepner died following emergency surgery on November 15, 1997.

Finding Aid

A finding aid can be found online at this link.


This collection is located at the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives in Los Angeles, California.


MCC | Kepner, Jim | Council on Religion and the Homosexual | Mattachine Society | Author/editor | Gay Liberation Movement | California | Los Angeles | San Francisco