Robert Mitchell Coggin, a longtime D.C.-area resident who played a key role in helping to pass a gay rights law in Montgomery County, Md., in 1984, died Jan. 19 from complications associated with Myotonic Muscular Dystrophy. He was 62.
UPDATE: A celebration of life will held Saturday, Feb. 22 at 2 p.m. at Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church, 9601 Cedar Lane in Bethesda, Md. For information, contact Tanner Wray, firstname.lastname@example.org.
His friends Tanner Wray and Karl Debus-Lopez said Coggin became active in gay rights activities in 1972 when he co-founded the first gay student group, the Gay Student Union, at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, where he received a bachelor’s degree in 1976.
Wray and Debus-Lopez said Coggin became the founder of the Suburban Maryland Lesbian and Gay Alliance in Montgomery County in 1982 after becoming a resident of the county.
“He was a leader in the fight to have Montgomery County, Md., pass a non-discrimination law that includes gays and lesbians in 1984,” the two said. “Over the years, Robert continued to be active with numerous gay and lesbian rights groups in their efforts to move forward on civil rights legislation.”
Coggin, who lived in Silver Spring, Md., was born in Danville, Va. He worked for many years for the National Institutes of Health in Maryland as an administrative assistant, Wray and Debus-Lopez said.
“During his time at NIH, Robert received many awards for his outstanding performance,” the two said. “Despite the fact that he had a chronic and degenerative illness, Robert’s outlook on life was always positive,” they said. “He enjoyed movies, theater, dinners out with friends, and he was a pioneering crusader in the fight for gay rights in the mid-Atlantic region.”
Through his estate, Coggin made arrangements to establish a scholarship fund for LGBT students at the University of Virginia, according to Wray and Debus-Lopez.
He is predeceased by his parents, Belva Mitchell Coggin and Henry Ernest Coggin, and a brother, William Henry Coggin. He is survived by numerous cousins and friends, including Debus-Lopez and Wray and his former partner Don Crisostomo.
A memorial service is being planned for the near future. Donations can be made to the University of Virginia Fund of Charlottesville, Va., under the name Robert Coggin, and to the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Tucson, Ariz.