Edgar Sandifer (left) and Dirk at a restaurant booth
Edgar Allen Sandifer, Jr. was born on October 4, 1929, in Cotton Valley, Louisiana, to Beulah Myrtis and Harvey Edgar Allen Sandifer, a Southern Baptist minister. Professing to have never been in the closet, even while in the military, Sandifier served in the Korean War from 1950-1953 and was honorably discharged as a sergeant with an operative care specialization. His experience in the Army’s Operative Care Unit led to his work as a nursing home administrator from 1955-1977. Sandifer officiated gay wedding ceremonies throughout the 1970s. At a 1958 Mattachine Society meeting, Sandifer was referred to as “the only queer from the South” (quotes from Outweek, June 27, 1990).
Sandifer fought for gay, lesbian, women’s, elderly, laborer, prisoner, and minority causes, creating a wide network of humanitarian affiliations and memberships. His grassroots work aimed to change the status quo and fill gaps in government social services through education, legal, and monetary support services. His organizational projects include the Mississippi Gay Alliance (MGA) where he was director from 1973-1989; the Jackson Gray Panthers (JGP) where he was project director from 1976-1987; and the Persons with AIDS Project (PWA), an MGA offshoot, where he was director from 1982-1989. He was also on the board of directors for the Mississippi Health Systems Agency from 1982-1986, the National Citizens Coalition for Nursing Home Reform from 1982-1986, and the National Gray Panthers Health Watch Task Force. He also served as a member of the Workers World Party and the People’s Anti-War Mobilization (PAM).