On this week’s Out in the Bay we bring you the story — in his own words and voice — of the late LGBTQ philanthropist, civil rights activist and ambassador James C. Hormel, who died August 13 at 88 after a full and fascinating life.

After a yearslong political fight in which far-right Republican opponents accused him of pedophilia and more, Hormel made history as the highest-ranking openly LGBTQ U.S. official ever when he finally became ambassador to Luxembourg in 1999.

A Hormel Foods heir, Hormel grew up wealthy in a place and time – Austin, Minnesota in the 1930s and ‘40s – in which being gay didn’t seem an option. He married, fathered five kids and became a law school dean before the political and social tumult of the 1960s brought a deep personal reassessment.

He shared his story with Out in the Bay in 2011, shortly after publishing his memoir, Fit to Serve: Reflections on a Secret Life, Private Struggle, and Public Battle to Become the First Openly Gay U.S. Ambassador.”

In his honor and memory, we bring you highlights of that 2011 conversation. Hear Jim Hormel’s story in his own words and voice.

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Photo of the late Ambassador James C. Hormel in his office in 2011 by Rick Gerharter, courtesy of the Bay Area Reporter. 

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