David Benjamin Mixner
Political activist, author and playwright
Born: August 16, 1946
Grew up in: Elmer, New Jersey
New Jersey Hall of Fame, Class of 2021: Public Service
David Mixner was just a teenager when he got his first taste of activism. Over the course of the next 60 years he never stopped fighting for the social causes and political candidates he believed in.
Mixner grew up poor in Southern Jersey, in a home without indoor plumbing or electricity. “We struggled,” he told interviewer Jose Abrigo, “and I could see the injustices against my own family.”
As early as high school, his desire to help others drew him to the civil-rights movement. In the ensuing years, he traveled to the South numerous times to participate in protests and help with voter registration. He recalls being arrested at least seven times. He credits three individuals for inspiring his early activism: President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Pope John Paul XXIII.
Mixner left New Jersey to attend Arizona State University, where as a freshman he organized students to support a strike by local garbage workers. He transferred to the University of Maryland, but was more interested in activism. In 1967, as an organizer for the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam, he helped coordinate an anti-war march on the Pentagon.
After dropping out of college, Mixner worked for the presidential campaign of anti-war candidate Eugene McCarthy. He eventually worked for the presidential candidacies of George McGovern, Gary Hart and Bill Clinton. In 1969, he helped organize the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam, a national day of protest that drew the support of millions around the country.
In 1976, Mixner came out as gay and worked to defeat a highly publicized California proposition that would have banned homosexuals from teaching in the state. He even met with the state’s conservative governor, Ronald Reagan, and convinced him to oppose the proposition.
During the height of the AIDS epidemic and for decades after, Mixner fought tirelessly to bring attention to the scourge as an organizer and fundraiser. The epidemic hit Mixner terribly close to home. He counts more than 300 friends lost to AIDS, including his partner of 12 years.
Mixner has written several books, most notably the critically acclaimed memoir “Stranger Among Friends.” Starting in 2011, he became involved in live theater as a playwright and actor in a series of one-man shows and plays, sharing his life story and raising funds to support homeless youth.
“I think the most important thing in my life,” he told Abrigo, “was knowing who I was as a person and values and principles that I knew I would never compromise no matter what.”