April 25, 2016 at 9:43 am EDT | by Mariah Cooper
Former Senator Harris Wofford comes out at 90; will marry partner
(Screenshot via YouTube)

(Screenshot via YouTube)

Former Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Harris Wofford announced he will marry his partner, Matthew Charlton, on Saturday. The lawmaker’s second marriage comes nearly 20 years after the death of his wife.

In a op-ed column written in The New York Times, Wofford, 90, describes meeting and falling in love with Charlton, 40. Wofford was 75 at the time and Charlton 25 when the pair met on the beach.

“We both felt the immediate spark, and as time went on, we realized that our bond had grown into love,” Wofford writes. “Other than with Clare, I had never felt love blossom this way before.”

Wofford’s wife Claire died in 1996 after battling leukemia.

“I assumed that I was too old to seek or expect another romance,” Wofford continues. “But five years later, standing on a beach in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, I sensed a creative hour and did not want to miss it.”

“Too often, our society seeks to label people by pinning them on the wall — straight, gay or in between,” Wofford writes. “I don’t categorize myself based on the gender of those I love. I had a half-century of marriage with a wonderful woman, and now am lucky for a second time to have found happiness.”

Wofford’s political career included being an advisor to John F. Kennedy and working alongside Martin Luther King Jr.


  • Harris Wofford played a pivotal role in American history by helping to turn African American voters’ loyalty to the national Democratic Party.

    It is hard to understate how important African American Democrats have been to the successes of all Democrats for going on sixty years now. That fierce loyalty of so many AA voters first developed in the 1960 Nixon vs. Kenndey presidential race.

    In 1960, Harris Wofford was a close friend of both Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wife, Coretta. Wofford was also a civil rights advisor to John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign.

    Recently, in CNN’s *Race to The White House* series, its co-executive producer and narrator, Kevin Spacey, described in one segment how Wofford got the Kennedy brothers to make a meaningful ‘civil rights’ commitment to his friends, Martin and Coretta King…

    Race to the White House
    March 6, 2016 – 22:00 ET
    THOMAS: There’s a huge public misperception on civil rights. They think that Nixon was some kind of hideous racist and Jack was the friend of the black man. Not true. Nixon had a strong civil rights record in the 1950s. He was a friend of Martin Luther King.

    BUCHANAN: The Republican Party was the party of civil rights. The Democratic Party was the party of secession and segregation. Every single member of the Ku Klux Klan was a member of the Democratic Party.

    THOMAS: So going into the election, Nixon had reason to believe he would have a lot of black support.

    SPACEY: Just three weeks before the election, Martin Luther King is arrested. He and 50 other African-Americans have entered a whites-only restaurant.

    SEN. HARRIS WOFFORD, KENNEDY CIVIL RIGHTS ADVISER: The police were called. They refused to move. And they were all put in jail. Including King. It got even worse when he was transferred in the middle of the night to a state penitentiary in rural Georgia.

    THOMAS: And he’s at risk there. His wife is afraid that he’s going to get killed.

    SPACEY: This is Nixon’s golden opportunity to rescue Dr. King and scoop the black vote.

    [transcript of story continued in reply below]

    • [cont’d f/ above]


      [22:45:16] SPACEY: The arrest of Martin Luther King is a turning point in the Kennedy-Nixon campaign. For Kennedy’s civil rights adviser Harris Wofford, this is more than political. It’s personal. King and his wife Coretta are close friends.

      WOFFORD: She called me in panic. That’s terrible. And I said we’ll see what we can do. And I thought, you know, if these beautiful, passionate Kennedys would just show it by a phone call, it would mean something to Coretta.

      SPACEY: Wofford contacts Kennedy’s brother-in-law Sargent Shriver who is in charge of civil rights.

      Wofford asks if Kennedy will call Coretta to offer his support.

      WOFFORD: He says it will only work if I present the idea to Kennedy without any of the staff hearing. SPACEY: Shriver knows Kennedy’s team will block anything that might

      cost them votes in the south.

      SABATO: The Kennedys were never great advocates of civil rights. Generally they regarded it as a problem for their campaign. They would have preferred not to discuss it at all.

      SPACEY: But that’s not Shriver’s only problem. Kennedy is about to leave on a plane.

      WOFFORD: So Shriver had to race to the airport.

      SPACEY: Behind the scenes, Nixon tries to secure the release of his friend, Dr. King.

      THOMAS: Richard Nixon wants to do something, and he calls the White House, and the White House refuses. They won’t do it.

      SPACEY: Nixon fails. Can Shriver succeed in his mission?

      WOFFORD: Shriver got there, but the staff was all around Kennedy.

      SPACEY: Shriver waits until Kennedy is alone.

      UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, guys. Let’s go.

      UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ready to go, Jack?

      WOFFORD: Finally, he had about two minutes with Kennedy, and he said, we’ve all been worrying about what we can do to help. What about calling Coretta King?

      THOMAS: Kennedy’s fearful of alienating southern governors and southern Democrats by being pro-civil rights. But that all changes.

      SPACEY: Kennedy calls Coretta King to offer his support.

      NAFTALI: That was a big decision. Kennedy decides to do what is morally right.

      WASHINGTON: A simple phone call was a very noble thing to do. Undoubtedly he did this for political reasons, but he did it. Nixon did not.

      SPACEY: When Kennedy’s call leaks to the press his brother Bobby all but froths at the mouth.

      WOFFORD: He was white with anger. He says Sargent Shriver and I have probably lost the campaign. He was furious.

      TOWNSEND: My father was a little disturbed about that because he was worried how well that would go over with some of the, you know, white governors.

      SPACEY: The deed is done. But Bobby soon realizes he can turn the situation to his brother’s advantage. He demands the release of King. TOWNSEND: And so my father called the judge. And at that point,

      things really shifted.

      MARTIN LUTHER KING, CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: I understand from very reliable sources that Senator Kennedy served as a great force in making the release possible.

      THOMAS: All of a sudden Jack Kennedy was champion of the greatest civil rights leader of them all.

      [22:50:02] WASHINGTON: I’m positive it changed the voting patterns of a lot of African-Americans.

      THOMAS: And Nixon’s support amongst black voters falls off. Nixon usually had good political instincts about this kind of thing, but he just blew it.
      Full CNN episode transcript…

    • Wofford’s op-ed to the Times was a classy explanation to a public prone to ageism whenever there is an unusual age difference. Some with anti-bi prejudices or presumptions may need some education as well.

      So as public proclamations go, it was quite a thoughtful gift to his husband-to-be– and his kids.

      Obviously, it’s no one’s business but their own. But we ought not worry– unless they decide to snowboard together. And we all ought to be as cleared-eyed at 90.

      After reading some descriptions of his life and career, it’s clear Wofford– and his first love– were different-drummer activists from the start. His memoirs will definitely be worth a read some day.

      All good wishes to these two Washingtonians.

      • If it’s no ones business but their own then he wouldn’t write an open editorial about it. That makes it eveyone’s business!

        Further if it’s their business it hasn’t kept you from contributing your two cents!

        As for ageism’ I’d be skeptical of the motives of a decades younger guy showing such interest in me. In our community it’s more about looking for younger not older and those looking for older tend to want to be kept!

        The man is a senator who has had power, influence and money. He knows famous people. All the attributes a goldigger, couttesan or wannabe would seek!

        • Oookeedoke. Thanks for sharing.

          However, IMHO, Harris Wofford and Barney Frank have each made extraordinary personal and professional contributions to the betterment of our world. In particular, each of their contributions to civil and human rights have been consequential and lasting. They have become a matter of history.

          So it is entirely fitting— for LGBTQ people, in particular— to celebrate and honor such lives, and the loved ones who sustain them.

          Moreover, the glass of each man is at least half-full. Our country will be well-served should American presidents and other leaders continue to tap their wisdom.

          • Who is denying their contributions? That’s a completely different issue. You brought up ageism.

            If you want to be concerned about ageism focus on employment discrimination that people face over 50. People being laid off and unable to find work because of their age and unable to afford to retire! People forced into underemployment because they want cheaper and younger people. People forced to spend the little they have saved for retirement just to keep afloat because they can’t find work!

            It’s something we all can face!

    • Given that they have already been together 15 years I doubt it is not about the money.

      • Yep. There is that.

        For that matter, why should we assume that, due merely to his age, Wofford couldn’t be a potential ‘gold digger’ in the relationship?
        Cheers to both of them!

      • How do you know the guy wasn’t being kept and that he’s simply been waiting around for the big payoff? A 50 year age difference is huge!

        Should we believe Anna Nicole Smith was in it for the love when she was in her Spring-December romance and hung around? She didn’t waste any time after the guys death seeking the money.

        Is this Harold and Maude?

  • A 50 year age difference? Married just in time to switch the will.

  • Congratulations. I hope that they have many happy years together.

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