| by Sydney Fairman |
In 1975, Oliver Wellington “Billy” Sipple was a 33-year-old Vietnam veteran living in San Francisco. In the same year on Sept. 22, Sipple was one in the crowd of 3,000 people that had gathered outside San Francisco’s St. Francis Hotel to see President Gerald R. Ford. Standing next to Sipple was Sara Jane Moore.
Within minutes, Moore had fired two shots from a revolver; the first narrowly missed the President. The second ricocheted and hit a cab driver, who survived, after Sipple dove towards Moore and grabbed her arm. Sipple was immediately hailed as a hero; the All-American, ex-marine who saved the President’s life. However, the narrative surrounding Sipple shifted within days, when he was publicly outed as homosexual.
On Sept. 4, WDET rebroadcasted an hour-long RadioLab episode on Sipple. The episode, which originally premiered last September, goes into depth about Sipple’s halting of the assassination attempt on President Ford, his outing by gay rights icon Harvey Milk and the news media, his subsequent suing of news outlets and columnist Herb Caen and ultimate lawsuit dismissal as well as the ethics surrounding his outing, despite his stark opposition. Further information on Oliver Sipple and his impact can be found in Gale’s Archives of Sexuality and Gender.
Archives of Sexuality & Gender is the largest collection available in support of the study of gender and sexuality. It enables scholars to make new connections in LGBTQ history and activism, cultural studies, psychology, health, political science, policy studies, and other related areas of research.