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George Moscone's Death

George Moscone

The life and death of George Moscone:

He's revered as a martyr in the gay rights movement, because this father of four was gunned down in his office while serving as mayor of one America's largest cities.

George Moscone was born and raised in the city he died leading: San Francisco. He was born in the Italian-American Marina District, where Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe lived during their brief marriage. Moscone's father George was a guard at nearby San Quentin Prison and his mother Lena was a housewife.

An All-City basketball star in prep school, George attended the University of Pacific, University of California and Hastings College of Law. After getting his law degree, Moscone married Gina Bondanza in 1954 and they had four children.

George Moscone with his wife and kids

George made his mark in his hometown, first elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to 1963. As a member of this legislative body, Moscone became known for his defense of the poor and racial minorities. He also championed small businesses.

Moscone won a California State Senate seat in 1966 …

George Moscone

…and helped to push a bill repealing California's sodomy laws. In 1975, Moscone won a run-off election for San Francisco Mayor.

George Moscone, 1975

Because the People's Temple was thriving in San Francisco at the time, and helped Moscone get elected, he appointed Temple leader Jim Jones as the head of the San Francisco Housing Commission. Jones later engineered the horrors of what came to be known as the "Jonestown Massacre", in which Temple members engaged in a mass suicide in November, 1978.

Other things Moscone is remembered for include stopping the Giants' baseball team from moving to Toronto and for appointing women gays and lesbians to city advisory boards and commissions.

In 1977, openly gay Harvey Milk was elected a San Francisco supervisor…

Harvey Milk

…along with Dan White…

Dan White

…a fireman and former police officer.

In late 1978, White resigned and Moscone had the power as mayor to replace him. But White changed his mind and asked Moscone to reappoint him.

At first Moscone considered it, but when Milk…

Moscone and Milk

…and other liberals talked him out of it, White went to City Hall for a final plea.

When Moscone wouldn't reconsider, White pulled a pistol from his suit and shot and killed the Mayor.

Moscone, Milk, and White

White then went into Milk's office and shot and killed him too.

newspaper report of Milk and Moscone shooting

White surrendered to police and blamed his diet for the violence, saying he was depressed and suffered diminished capacity because he went from eating healthy foods to Hostess Twinkies …


…and other sugary foods. It became known as the "Twinkie defense", a snarky nickname for an unlikely legal defense.

Eventually convicted of a reduced manslaughter charge, White killed himself after being released from prison in 1985.

George Moscone is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, California.

George Moscone Burial Site

And the biggest convention and exhibition hall in San Francisco, the Moscone Center, is named after him.

Moscone Center

In another notable postscript, Dianne Feinstein, who'd been another member of the Board of Supervisors…

Dianne Feinstein

…succeeded Moscone as San Francisco Mayor, and went on to an influential political career as a member of the U.S. Senate.

Dianne Feinstein