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PASSAGES James Monroe Smith, Scott D. Batcke
2003-08-06

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James Monroe Smith dies

James Monroe Smith, founder of the AIDS Legal Council of Chicago, died of AIDS in his home in New Hartford, Conn., on July 24. An innovative AIDS activist since the early 1980s, Jim founded the AIDS Legal Council in 1987, gathering a small group of attorneys around his Lakeview diningroom table. Jim stated at the time, 'There was a growing need for legal services for AIDS patients and I decided I should be doing something more significant in my life in terms of civil rights.' With a $22,000 grant from the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Jim opened up ALCC's first office in a tiny two-room suite at 220 S. State St.

'The agency was his idea,' said Ann Fisher, ALCC's current executive director, 'Jim looked around and saw there were needs not being met by the traditional legal community … and it was a time of tremendous stigma for the gay population, who often did not feel safe with traditional lawyers.'

Jim served as executive director of ALCC until 1992, lending his vision to shape a small grassroots agency that today handles more than 1,500 legal matters each year for people with HIV/AIDS. In 1996, when Jim moved to Connecticut to be near his family, the AIDS Legal Council's Cook County Hospital Outreach Project (now at the CORE Center) was named the James Monroe Smith AIDS Outreach Project in his honor.

Smith, who described himself as a liberal and a feminist, was the author of AIDS and Society, the first broad introductory and interdisciplinary college text on AIDS, published in 1996. The book discusses the relationship between public health and civil liberties, the synergy between poverty and AIDS, and the dynamics of prejudice. He was also the author of Producing Patient-Centered Health Care. Jim was an adjunct faculty member at Northwestern University, Loyola University of Chicago School of Law and the Chicago-Kent College of Law.

Jim is survived by his sister, Mary Sen, his father, Harry, and two nephews. A service in Chicago will be held at a date to be determined in September. Contact the AIDS Legal Council for at (312) 427-8990. Following are excerpts from an essay that Smith wrote about living with HIV, at www.thebody.com/bp/oct01/thoughts.html, the October 2001 BODY POSITIVE, titled 'Thoughts About Having AIDS.'

'AIDS has taught me to focus on the things that I can control—my attitude, diet, the amount of rest I have, my choice of projects, and the purpose and meaning I find in life. Retaining health may be related to the amount of control we exert. Control of our ability to choose day-to-day activities or our long-range goals enables us to maintain our productivity and independence.

'Control for persons with chronic and/or terminal illnesses is often related to their ability to make health-related decisions. Enabling patients to make these decisions may require doctors to become facilitators of health care. My doctor does not tell me what treatments to take. Because I prefer to make my own health-related decisions, he provides information about the benefits and side effects of drugs. This information is relevant for me to make appropriate decisions.

'Control also includes forming the vision for our lives and investing them with purpose and meaning. We may create purpose and meaning in our life by contributing something to society and by developing intimacy with our family and friends.

'Many people with AIDS become 'empowered' by it. Being empowered by AIDS means learning the power of freedom, acceptance, honesty, and the value of time.

'I have told most of my friends and acquaintances that I have AIDS. This has given me a sense of freedom, has shown me the power of acceptance and has provided ready support of people who love me. My sense of freedom stems from the ability to be myself. My disclosure that I am a gay man with AIDS affirms that I am not ashamed of who or what I am. I have claimed my self-respect even though others may reject me.

'The freedom that I experience from having AIDS has also brought me peace. When I am peaceful and in solitude, I tend to gain, rather than to lose, perspective. When we focus on the details, we lose sight of the whole. As we enter a more peaceful state, we tend to be more compassionate than angry. Because I have been able to absorb the peace associated with solitude, I have moved beyond anger into compassion.

'AIDS has also taught me about the power of acceptance: that when we accept our mortality, we often begin to live our lives. This does not mean that we are resigned to die, but that we desire to live a more complete and meaningful life.

'I accepted myself as a gay man long before I knew I was HIV-positive or diagnosed with AIDS. I could do this because, since I was somewhat of a non-conformist, I could think critically about society's views about homosexuality.'

Scott D. Batcke

Scott D. Batcke, D.P.M., age 31, of Chicago, passed away unexpectedly due to sudden illness July 15. Dr. Scott Batcke was a respected podiatrist and active in the community. Well known professionally and socially, Scott was active with local GLBT rights organizations and sports leagues. Scott was a devoted son of Charles D. and Saundra; loving brother of Charles E. (Kim); fond uncle of Hayli, Madysin and Allie; dear friend of Bill Granzo, Steve Youngblood, David Plotnick, David Thomas, Nicholas Stamas, Katie Campbell, Angelique Graves and many other special friends, uncles, aunts and cousins.

Funeral services were held at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Chicago July 18. Private interment New Calvary Cemetery, Midland, Mich.

In lieu of flowers, memorials to the Howard Brown Health Center, Attn: Development, 4025 N. Sheridan Rd., Chicago, IL 60613.


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