Dallas Pride 2022 is dedicated to the late Don Maison

DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer

The Dallas Pride Committee has dedicated the 2022 Dallas Pride celebration to Don Maison, the attorney who carried the battle for LGBTQ equality into the courts in the late 1970s and through the 1980s before taking over as executive director of the agency then known as the PWA Coalition of Dallas (now known as AIDS Services of Dallas) in 1989.

When Maison retired as president and CEO of AIDS Services of Dallas at the beginning of 2019 after 32 years as head of the organization, he was the longest-serving head of an AIDS service organization in the country. He died on Feb. 21 this year following a long illness and a short battle with esophageal cancer.

Maison’s first big battle in the fight for LGBTQ equality was when he represented several men arrested during a 1979 Dallas police raid on a gay bar called Village Station, then located at the corner of Throckmorton and Cedar Springs. Maison used one of the arresting officers’ sworn testimony — he said that while standing near the bar’s entrance he had seen men touching each other on the dance floor — to bust the prosecution’s case, using a copy of the bar’s floor plan to prove that the officer was lying because they could not possibly have seen the dance floor from where they said they had been standing. He was also the attorney for Gregory Wilson, the man who sued Southwest Airlines when Wilson applied for a job as a flight attendant only to be told he was “the wrong sex” for the job. The class action employment lawsuit Wilson v. Southwest Airlines eventually guaranteed that the airline would hire men as flight attendants and ticket agents.

As head of AIDS Services of Dallas, Maison helped focus the agency on providing housing for people impacted by HIV/AIDS, becoming a national leader in the area of housing for people with HIV/AIDS within just a couple of years. He led ASD through continued growth, starting with purchasing and renovating a facility known as Ewing House and including Revlon House, Hillcrest House and Spencer Gardens. Shortly before his retirement at the beginning of 2019, Maison and his team acquired another small apartment complex down the street from the other facilities. ASD broke ground on that renovation just weeks before the COVID pandemic hit and everything was locked down. The project was further delayed a year later by a fire that destroyed one of the two buildings and damaged the other.

Work on that property is underway now under the direction of his successor, Traswell Livingston, and it will become part of Maison’s ASD legacy.