A Lifetime of Advocacy for Social Justice WILL LIVE IN PERPETUITY

August 13, 2021

The entire National AIDS Memorial family is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Ambassador Jim Hormel, and extends its most sincere condolences to his husband, Michael and his entire family.  A long-time friend to the Grove and a champion of justice, we were truly honored that Jim and Michael joined us on June 5th in the Grove where we marked 40 years of the AIDS pandemic.  The occasion was a gift both to Jim, and all of us — to have him with us on that momentous day when his leadership was also recognized.  Jim’s big heart and sincere compassion was always evident in the dedication he showed for helping others.  Whether it was hosting the first "friendraiser" to help with the founding of the Grove — now our nation’s memorial to AIDS — or becoming the first openly gay U.S. Ambassador in the face of extreme vitriol, the impact of his bold leadership, on so many issues of profound importance to the lives of so many, will live on in perpetuity.  Jim’s warmth of spirit and genuine love for his country, and community, is something we need so much more of today.  May we all take a moment to reflect on Jim, and what his legacy of love is, and always will be.


Ambassador James C. Hormel, a human rights pioneer, public servant, and first openly gay U.S. Ambassador, is a long-time friend and supporter of the National AIDS Memorial.  

It was more than three decades ago when Jim hosted the very first friend-raiser to help create a memorial in an abandoned grove in Golden Gate Park -- and transform it into a living space of hope, healing and remembrance -- for loved ones lost to AIDS, the survivors and the heroes. It was through his early support, helping bring a community together, that today, the Memorial Grove is our nation’s federally-designated memorial to AIDS.  

Jim, married to husband Michael P. N. A. Hormel for over a decade, has received numerous awards over the years for his courage and leadership, including the National AIDS Memorial’s Light in the Grove Lifetime of Commitment Award and the San Francisco Commonwealth Club’s Champion of Civil Rights & Social Justice Honor Award.  

Both Jim and Michael have played a major role in effecting social change through their unwavering support of myriad organizations and causes, and have stood as philanthropic leaders, devoted to improving the lives of LGBTQ+ people and people affected by HIV/AIDS.

Jim was one of the founders of the Human Rights Campaign.  He helped create the LGBTQIA Center at the San Francisco Public Library, which is named in his honor, and he continues to be a powerful voice for social justice.

Jim has been recognized on many occasions for his lifelong work and service to his country and the community. In 2011, the National AIDS Memorial honored him with its Lifetime of Commitment Award at its annual Light in the Grove Gala. His and his husband Michael’s names are engraved side-by-side in the Circle of Friends in the memorial Grove.

His memoir, “Fit to Serve” is a passionate and inspiring true story of his life and the determination for human equality and provides a compelling perspective for attaining one’s own version of the American Dream—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness without exception. 

Jim has five children, fourteen grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

Fit to Serve: Reflections on a Secret Life, Private Struggle, and Public Battle to Become the First Openly Gay U.S. Ambassador. Book available on podcast.

“This book was written for people whether they are gay or not to recognize how important it is to them to be true to themselves and to recognize that they have the power within them to make a difference in this world.”

– James Hormel

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