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Gay professor who
was forced out, then exonerated, dies at 87

Gay professor who
was forced out, then exonerated, dies at 87

Joel Dorius, one of three professors forced out of Smith College in 1960 for possession of gay pornography but later exonerated, has died at his home in San Francisco. He was 87. His death last week was caused by bone marrow cancer, the Reverend Paul G. Crowley, a friend, said Monday. Raymond Joel Dorius, who never used his first name, was born in Salt Lake City on January 4, 1919, and graduated from the University of Utah. He taught English literature at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard, and Yale before going to Smith. He then spent 20 years at San Francisco State University, where he retired in 1984. But his career nearly crashed after state troopers and local police in Northampton, Mass., searched his home during a spate of mail-order obscenity raids, which were ordered by President Eisenhower's postmaster general. He and another untenured professor, Edward Spofford, had been turned in by Newton Arvin, a tenured literature professor whose home was raided first. What they found--pictures of men in their underwear and diaries of the closeted gay life--were mild by today's standards but considered illegal pornography then. The three men were charged with possession of pornography. Arvin agreed to testify against the others, but he later suffered a breakdown and committed himself to a mental hospital. The three professors were suspended from Smith. Arvin was able to retire at half pay, but the school's contracts with Dorius and Spofford were not renewed. Dorius and Spofford accepted a guilty verdict so they could appeal under Massachusetts law. In 1963, the state's supreme court overturned all three convictions. Smith College never issued a formal apology, but in 2002 school officials established the $100,000 Dorius/Spofford Fund for the Study of Civil Liberties and Freedom of Expression, and the Newton Arvin Prize in American Studies, a $500 annual stipend. Dorius did not return to Smith for the occasion, but he was touched by the gesture, which reflected a change in the country's attitude toward gay people, said Crowley. "Younger folks can't imagine how different the world was not so long ago, and the price people paid," he said. "Joel and his generation suffered ignominies but have made life easier for those who follow after them." (AP)

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