History of Gay and Lesbian Life in Milwaukee, Wisconsin - People - Bios

Don Schwamb


July 21, 1952
Primary Involvements:

Wisconsin LGBT History Project
Cream City Foundation
AIDS Resource Center of Milwaukee
Milwaukee LGBT Community Center
BESTD Clinic



View a Picture Gallery of Don.



Donald F. Schwamb, known to everyone as Don Schwamb, was perhaps a typical 50's child dealing with coming out as gay. He remembers telling his parents when he was 12, "I don't like girls, I like boys". This of course caused them to threaten to take him to a doctor, but Don stuck to his convictions even at that age, and when he told his parents essentially the same thing at age 18, it "stuck"- and they accepted him and his friends from then on (with natural reservations).

Don remembers first becoming involved in Milwaukee gay life in the late 1960's. He scoured the newspapers and made some phone calls, and decided to attend a meeting of the Gay People's Union (GPU), which was scheduled to meet in the basement of a church on the east side of Milwaukee. He remembers driving to the meeting, and circling the block several times: Are there any police cars around? Will anyone see me? Is anyone else going in? After parking and screwing up his courage, Don decided to go in.

Over time, Don became active in many gay community organizations. He would serve for over 8 years on the board of Milwaukee GAMMA (social and sports group), including one year as President. He served over 10 years on the Board of the Cream City Foundation (CCF), including 8 years as President. We was one of the driving forces in spinning off the Milwaukee AIDS Project (MAP) from BESTD Clinic and founding the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin.

More recently, he has been active in areas of the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center, and a BESTD Clinic counseling and testing volunteer. And he has been the driving force of the Milwaukee LGBT History Project, this web site being his brainchild and pet project. He is also a co-founder of the Milwaukee Guerrilla Gay Bar social group.

In 2015-2016, Don collaborated with Michail Takach, who curated "LGBT Milwaukee", an 'Images of Modern America' book celebrating Milwaukee's gay and lesbian heritage over the past 75 years. Don also wrote the Foreword for the book.

    (An index to the book, and links to reviews and interviews with the author, is available at this link: Book Index.)

Read a full Biography of Don.

Don Schwamb (left) was consulted by Kathy Flanigan of Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
for a 2012 article "Tolerant Times Bring Change to Gay Bars"
Read the article on JSOnline.    -OR-     Read the article here.

Book cover, "LGBT Milwaukee"


Magic picnic, Madison, 1987

with partner Gary; Agawa Canyon, 1988


Written by Don Schwamb in autobiographical form.
Web site design and format by Don Schwamb.
Last updated: April, 2016.

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