My Experiences During the Inquisition

Art in the Air Force

I arrived at the University of Florida on my 25th birthday in September 1957. Having completed four years in the Air Force, I was anxious to move ahead quickly with my education, and get on to a working career. I knew I was gay at the time and was not interested in joining a fraternity or participating in any of the other social activities expected of entering freshmen. I was serious about my education and set about making the most of it.


I was called in to be interrogated three or four times during the next two years. Each time, it was the same setting, and the same set of questions. Each time I was unceremoniously marched out of class, in front of the instructor and all my classmates, by a uniformed policeman. Once this occurred during a final exam in accounting. The instructor never asked me any questions about the event, but was kind enough to allow me to take a makeup exam. At each interrogation, I refused to tell them anything. Each time I was amazed that, while I was truly terrified by their tactics and their threats, I was able to stonewall their questions and refuse to give them the answers they were so desperate for. I came to realize that they, as a group, were really a very dumb bunch of redneck, illiterate people, clumsily wielding a vast amount of power over others.

Art's graduation

In April 1959, I was once again called out of class. This time, it was a call to report to the Dean of Mens' office. As I walked across campus toward the Administration Building, my feet felt like they were encased in concrete. I was certain I was to be expelled from school. I walked into the Dean's office, white-faced and trembling in anticipation. He then told me that my father had died that morning. I broke down into sobs, sobs of relief. It was only that my father was dead!

Time passed. Investigator Tileston and others did their best to harass me into admitting my gayness, and/or to finger fellow gays so they could be attacked and persecuted. I managed to come through the ordeal with a 3.94 grade point average, and graduated with Honors.

Art and Dennis

I moved on to a successful and somewhat normal life as a gay man. My life has been full of travel, success, and happiness with my partner Dennis. But, never far in the background, has lurked the shadow of Investigator Tileston and the gnawing feeling that what I am, the very essence of my being, is somehow wrong. Bad. Sinful. Unworthy. I will probably never rid myself of those feelings. But, time, and the new knowledge that others know about what went on in Florida some 40 years ago, makes those feelings a lot easier to bear.

-Art Copleston

Photograph of Art (left) and his partner of 27 years, Dennis.

Copyright 1999 by Allyson A. Beutke
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