LGBT History Project: LGBT-089 Walter J. Lear Collection

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1976 - 2008. 2010. 2018

Born on May 4, 1923, in Brooklyn, NY, Walter J. Lear was a physician and activist for healthcare reform and LGBTQ+ rights. He received his B.S. from Harvard in 1943, his M.D. from Long Island College of Medicine in 1946, and his M.S. in Hospital Administration from Columbia University School of Public Health in 1948. Lear came out in January of 1976 in the first issues of the Philadelphia Gay News.

Lear held many public health positions in Pennsylvania including, but not limited to, Deputy City Health Commissioner for Philadelphia (1964), State Regional Health Commissioner (1971), and acting executive director of Philadelphia General Hospital. He also founded the Institute of Social Medicine and Community Health (circa 1975) and was one of the four founders of the Maternity Care Coalition in Philadelphia (1980).

As an activist, Lear’s dedication to healthcare and LGBTQ+ rights intersected. His activism included, but is not limited to: Chairperson to the Gay Public Health Workers Caucus of the American Public Health Association (1975-1978); Board of Directors member for the Gay Community Center of Philadelphia, now the William Way Center, (1975-1991); PA State Health Department delegate to the Governor’s Council for Sexual Minorities (1976-1979); co-founder of the Mazzoni Center in Philadelphia (1979); co-founder the Philadelphia AIDS Task Force (1982); and the first openly gay member of the Philadelphia Human Relations Commission (1984-1988).

Lear passed away in 2010.

The contents of this collection are organized into six series: Context of Collection, Correspondence, Photographs, Scholarship, Recognition Events, and Miscellaneous. For more materials related to Walter J. Lear, please see:

Walter J. Lear papers, 1975-1996, John J. Wilcox, Jr. LGBT Archives, William Way LGBT Community Center.

Walter Lear Collection, 1944 – 1963, Joan E. Lynaugh Archives and Special Collections, Barbara Bates Center for the Study of The History of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania.

Gift of John Barns
LGBT-089 Walter J. Lear Collection
Dickinson College Archives and Special Collections