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Celebrating local Pride Heroes: Deacon Maccubbin — the man behind DC’s Pride Party

Every week, WTOP is celebrating a Pride Hero who has made a difference in the LGBTQ+ community in the D.C. area as part of our Pride Month coverage. Check back all throughout June as we share these stories on air and online.

Celebrating local pride heroes: Deacon Maccubbin

A year after L. Page “Deacon” Maccubbin opened the gay bookstore Lambda Rising in 1974, he was talking to friends about going to a Pride celebration in New York City.

“Somebody said, ‘Why don’t we do something in Washington,'” said Maccubbin. “I thought ‘That’s a wonderful idea, let’s do it.'”

Maccubbin went to work instantly. He decided to hold a Gay Pride block party right in front of Lambda Rising on 1724 20th Street NW in D.C.’s Dupont Circle neighborhood.

One of the first things Maccubbin was required to do by the city was to check with his neighbors.

“We had the support of more than 51% of the people in the neighborhood to sign a petition allowing us to close the block off,” Maccubbin told WTOP.

Knowing he needed help to organize such a big event, Maccubbin hired his friend Bob Carpenter. They got the word out by putting flyers in all of the gay bars in D.C.

So, at 1 p.m. on June 22, 1975, the D.C. Gay Pride Party was set to begin. But there was a problem.

“At 10 minutes to one, there was no one on the street,” Maccubbin said.

Carpenter was nervous and, according to Maccubbin, was wringing his hands, and said, “No one is going to show up.”

Deacon Maccubbin serves as the honorary grand marshal at the Capital Pride parade in 2015. (Courtesy Mitchell Wood)
Deacon Maccubbin serves as the honorary grand marshal at the Capital Pride parade in 2015. (Courtesy Mitchell Wood)
Deacon with Pride Proclamation: Deacon Maccubbin holds a Pride Proclamation from the D.C. Council. With him (left to right) are Frank Kameny, a gay rights activist, and John A. Wilson, a D.C. Council member — and later chair — who coordinated the resolution. (Courtesy Rainbow History Project, Inc. )
Revelers at Pride ’78: Revelers at the Gay Pride Day Block Party on 20th St. NW in 1978. (Courtesy Rainbow History Project, Inc. )
Deacon Maccubbin (right) and his husband, Jim Bennett, on the steps of where his bookstore was once located, overlooking the location of D.C.’s first annual pride event. (WTOP/Jimmy Alexander)
Deacon Maccubbin (left) and his husband, Jim Bennett, on the steps of where his bookstore was once located, overlooking the location of D.C.’s first annual pride event. (WTOP/Jimmy Alexander)
For further information about RHP and its archives, visit www.rainbowhistory.org
For further information about RHP and its archives, visit .
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Deacon Maccubbin serves as the honorary grand marshal at the Capital Pride parade in 2015. (Courtesy Mitchell Wood)
For further information about RHP and its archives, visit www.rainbowhistory.org

“I said, ‘Don’t worry Bob, they’ll be here. They are just on ‘gay time.’ … Not long after, we had 2,000 people,” Maccubbin said.

Maccubbin shared these memories with WTOP from the steps of where his bookstore was once located, overlooking the location of D.C.’s first annual Pride event.

“We had bands playing. Politicians stopping by to say hello. All the neighbors came out,” Maccubbin said. “It was an incredible experience.”

Also showing up that day was a local TV news crew.

Maccubbin made a deal with the reporters: They were only allowed to film on one side of the street. Everyone at the block party was told if they didn’t want to be on television, they should stand on the other side of the street.


More Pride Month stories


“There were some people that were concerned about their jobs or their family seeing them,” said Maccubbin.

Not everyone was pleased with the work Maccubbin was doing for the gay community. Not only did Maccubbin have to deal with a lot of harassment over the phone, the windows of his bookstore were broken and they received bomb threats.

Every time there was an incident, Maccubbin and his staff would head to the bookstore and keep going.

“We had to stand up and be counted. We weren’t going anywhere,” said Maccubbin’s husband, Jim Bennett. “More and more people stood up and said we’re not taking this crap anymore.”

The bad memories have now faded, and Maccubbin thinks more about the role he played in the creating an event that would one day bring hundreds of thousands of people to D.C. to celebrate who they are.

“There is rarely a week that goes by that I don’t hear from somebody that talks about coming out at Pride or coming out in our bookstore, Lambda Rising,” Maccubbin said. “Because it was the first place they felt welcome.”

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Jimmy Alexander

Jimmy Alexander has been a part of the D.C. media scene as a reporter for DC 鶹ý Now and a long-standing voice on the Jack Diamond Morning Show. Now, Alexander brings those years spent interviewing newsmakers like President Bill Clinton, Paul McCartney and Sean Connery, to the WTOP 鶹ýroom.

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