Harry Britt, a soft-spoken openly gay Methodist preacher who was thrust into politics when then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein appointed him to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors after Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated in 1978, died Tuesday night. He was 82.
Britt, a natural introvert who didn't seek the spotlight, was one of four people Milk named as his preferred successors in the event of his death.
"Harry was progressive before the word became vogue," said Feinstein, now California's senior U.S. Senator. "He was a powerful advocate for the gay community who never took no for an answer. Strong, passionate advocates like Harry have done so much for San Francisco and the country, and I’m glad to have known him. He’ll be missed.”
Britt was born in Port Arthur, Texas in 1938 and eventually made his way to San Francisco as the gay rights movement was gaining momentum. Although he was not a natural politician, Britt was tapped to fulfill the vision of a slain gay icon, Harvey Milk.
"He didn't like the limelight. He didn't care for it -- for any of that," said Tom Ammiano, another openly gay politician who later served on the Board of Supervisors. "In a way, I hate to say it this way, but, you know, he did us a favor by saying, yes [to Feinstein], he sacrificed a lot. But I think he realized it was bigger than him because we who knew him and Harvey knew that we could trust him."