Ken Jones, one of the most high profile Black gay activists in San Francisco’s history, died of cancer Wednesday. He was 70 years old.
Jones committed his life to desegregating the LGBTQ movement, and was the first African American chair of the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee board. Jones got his start in activism as the co-chair of the outreach committee to elevate disenfranchised voices in 1980. He was portrayed by Michael K. Williams in the ABC docudrama When We Rise, which described his activist work in San Francisco alongside figures like Roma Guy, Sally Miller Gearhart, and Gilbert Baker. The docudrama was based on a book of the same name by LGBTQ activist Cleve Jones, a close friend of Ken Jones, who also memorialized his passing on Facebook.
“Ken Jones was a hero,” Cleve Jones said in the post. “He deeply loved his family and his community, and dedicated his entire life to the movement for peace and justice.”
Mr. Jones was also an important volunteer at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation (previously titled the Kaposi’s Sarcoma Research and Education Foundation), founding the first 100-mile AIDS bike-a-thon from San Francisco to the Russian River.
Jones was a US Navy veteran, and first came to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1972 when he was assigned to Treasure Island. In the Navy, Jones served three tours of duty in the Vietnam War. He passed away at the San Francisco VA Medical Center, where he had been treated off-and-on since being diagnosed with bladder cancer on Sep. 15. Ken Jones was also a longtime survivor of HIV. His caretaker, Sanjai Moses, told the Bay Area Reporter Jones had “helped raise her.”
Ken Jones was also an ordained deacon, officiating weddings and often posting gleeful photos online.