Living to Fight

A partner’s death from AIDS launched Bob Briddick’s three decades of activism. 

By Brandon Wolf
Photo by Eric Edward Schell

During the height of the AIDS crisis, Bob Briddick recalls attending as many as five funerals in one week.

“I lost my partner in 1987,” Briddick says. “Bobby got sick, and in two weeks he was dead.”

A short time later, Briddick was asked to join the board of The Assistance Fund, an organization founded to help pay health-insurance premiums for people with HIV/AIDS, many of whom had lost their jobs.

Since then, Briddick has served in various roles with numerous organizations, including president of the Diana Foundation, king for the Krewe of Olympus, and secretary for OutReach United.

For his three decades of activism, Pride Houston selected Briddick as an honorary grand marshal for its 2018 parade.

“He is a true champion of the community,” says Pride Houston secretary Jeremy Fain. “His accomplishments and accolades are too many to count.”

After graduating from North Texas State College, Briddick taught high-school English in his hometown of Dallas before moving to Houston in 1974 to manage an interior-design supplier’s showroom. He remained in the interior-design industry until his retirement last year.

After joining the The Assistance Fund in the late 1980s, he stayed on until the organization merged into Legacy Health Services in 2005.

“I’m very proud that we had over a million-dollar surplus when the merger occurred,”
he says.

Ken Malone, a former executive director of The Assistance Fund, says he quickly learned how adept Briddick was at fundraising after the two met when they were both on the board in 1999.

“I knew virtually nothing, but he was a great tutor and demonstrated his personal commitment to making people’s lives better,” Malone says. “He showed me how to make a difference and be true to my internal compass. He is a true treasure.”

Briddick currently serves as secretary for OutReach United, which was started a decade ago after activist Gary Wood hosted a successful National Coming Out Day party. The annual Houston Coming Out Party evolved into OutReach United, which has raised over $400,000 for LGBTQ organizations.

“Bob has extraordinary generosity,” says Wood, a co-founder of the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce. “I have always been amazed at his willingness to give, and his desire to help make a difference in the lives of others. Bob is someone I can turn to for perspective and advice. He has always proven infallible in the wisdom he has shared with me. I am very fortunate in my life to call him a friend.”

In 1999, Briddick was elected King Olympus XXX, and in 2005 he served as president of the Diana Foundation. In 2013, at its 60th-anniversary celebration, the Diana Foundation bestowed its coveted Golden Bow Award on Briddick .

An active member of the Executive & Professional Association of Houston, the Mystic Society of Isis & Osiris, and the Gourmettes cooking club, Briddick also volunteers with the Montrose Center’s SPRY Diner (which serves three free lunches a week to LGBTQ seniors) and as a Museum of Fine Arts docent at the historic Bayou Bend and Rienzi house-museums.

For the last 37 years, Briddick has organized two annual holiday dinners at his home for LGBTQ people who have no family to celebrate with—a covered-dish gathering on Thanksgiving, and an open house on Christmas. The dinners typically draw about 60 people who can find warmth and acceptance on those special days.

“Originally, I asked people to just bring a covered dish on Thanksgiving,” he says. “But when thirteen people showed up once with candied yams, I decided to be more specific.”

In addition to his activism, Briddick is something of an art collector and creator. In the 1980s, he developed a fascination with Mexican retablos and Spanish santos artwork. The resulting collection of religious art displayed throughout his Montrose townhome caught the eye of Houston’s Heritage Society, which hosted an exhibition in 2016. “It’s a bit strange for someone who isn’t at all religious,” Briddick says. “But I appreciate the artistry of the pieces.”

Briddick also creates and sells two- and three-dimensional collages. “I started making them when my late partner asked me to create birthday cards for him rather than buying something at a card shop,” he says, adding that he creates these scenes of everyday life (as well as some homoerotic scenarios) for
enjoyment rather than for profit.

Reflecting on his decades of LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS activism in Houston, the 80-year-old Briddick says he was a fighter from the very beginning.

“I was a premature baby when I was born [two months early], and for a month I had to fight to live,” Briddick says. “I guess that sense of drive has stayed me with all my life.”

This article appears in the June 2018 edition of OutSmart magazine. 


Brandon Wolf

Brandon Wolf is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.
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