Please consider your donation to the Leon Bey Memorial Library. Donations to the Leon Bey Memorial Library will provide shelving, books, computers, and monitors where folk can learn and study LGBT history. LGBT history will be taught on a regular basis so many may know where we came from and aspire to bring change in where we are going. To donate, please click HERE
Leon Bey was a long time resident of Dayton. He worked for the Dayton Metro Library for over 30 years and was responsible for many programs at the library. He was a lover of history and shared his love of history with all who would listen. Leon was famous for leading history walks through Dayton, often wearing a black cape, speaking fluently of ghosts, long-forgotten business moguls, the Miami-Erie Canal, famous Daytonians, even more famous visitors to Dayton, and murders!
Leon Bey was an active board member of the Dayton Lesbian and Gay Center in the 1980’s and was responsible for programming and growing center attendance. In 1976 Leon, and then partner David Wright, revived the Dayton Lesbian and Gay Center and kept it from closing. Bey and Wright wrote the bylaws for the Dayton Lesbian and Gay Center, which still exist today at the Greater Dayton LGBT Center. Bey led the committee that organized Dayton’s 1st PRIDE celebration in 1987 where the committee picked strawberries by hand and served them for dessert at St. Andrews Church on Salem Ave.
In the early years of the Center, Bey organized a “Men’s Hour” as well as a “Women’s Hour”. These programs ran from 1976 to 2004, and provided members a safe place to express themselves and be themselves without fear of reprisal. At the October 2, 2002 meeting the discussion topic was “Just Married: Gay Marriage and the Expansion of Human Rights.” In 2004 the Men’s Hour held open discussion groups and once a month had a community dinner night, a tradition the Greater Dayton LGBT continues on a quarterly basis.
Leon Bey served as President of the Board of the Greater Dayton LGBT Center until 2000 when he suggested his own replacement, although Bey remained on the Board. In 2000, Bey and new Board President John Gantt, along with the entire LGBT Center Board organized the first ever outdoor Dayton PRIDE celebration which was held on a Friday night on Courthouse Square. In 2006, the 25th anniversary of the PRIDE celebration in Dayton, Leon Bey and David Wright served as Grand Marshals for the PRIDE parade in recognition of their 30 years of service to the LGBT Community.
Leon Bey remained active with the LGBT community and in 2008 assisted the Center in attempting to establish a permanent home on East Third Street in Dayton. In 2009 he played a crucial role in having the first Ohio Historical Marker which indicates a persons sexual orientation dedicated to Natalie Barney. The marker was ensconced in Cooper Park in Dayton, adjacent to the Dayton Metro Library, and can still be seen today.
In addition, Leon Bey worked with the Neon Movie Theater to produce “Jim in Bold” in 2006 as a PRIDE month event at the Neon Movie Theater. “Jim in Bold” is a documentary about Jim Wheeler, a gay high school student in Lebanon, PA who committed suicide in 1997 because of constant harassment at school. Leon was always searching for the latest in LGBT cinema, art, and theater events that educated and inspired LGBT Center members and the community as a whole.