Among other victories for gay rights with which he was associated was an executive order signed by President Bill Clinton that permitted gays to be given security clearances.
He considered the District’s repeal of an anti-sodomy law in early 1990s to be another achievement. In addition, he was credited as a co-founder of the Mattachine Society of Washington in 1961, a pioneering gay activist group.
The federal government, which had cast him aside, issued a formal apology in 2009 for letting him go.
The story of his struggle, chronicled in 77,000 pages of papers and memorabilia, was accepted in 2006 by the Library of Congress.
Living into his 80s, he was able to recognize and revel in the turnaround of American actions and attitudes towards the gay community.
Although he was aware that obstacles remained, he told a reporter last year that “it’s like a storybook ending.”
“Frank was active at a time when he had no backup,” said Rick Rosendall, a longtime gay rights activist in the District. “There was no significant organizational support. It was his sheer nerve, his patriotic indignation” that carried him.
His home, the site of the interview in which he reflected on the turnabouts in his life, was, in a further testament to the esteem in which he was held, designated as a D.C. Historic Landmark.
Franklin Edward Kameny, was born in the New York area on May 21, 1925. In the interview with the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner, he told of enlisting in the Army at the height of World War II, a few days before he turned 18.
In discussing how he had been “asked,” but “didn’t tell,” he said that “as a healthy, vigorous teenager,” there were indeed “things to tell.” (Although, he said, there were not many.)
“I have resented for 67 years that I had to lie in order to serve in a war effort that I strongly supported,” he said. “I did serve and I saw combat in Europe.”
Mr. Kameny was born in New York. After his Army service he received a doctorate in astronomy in 1956.
He came to Washington to work for the Army Map Service. His dismissal from that job came in 1957.
Published accounts say the dismissal was based on his homosexuality. One report said that he was arrested in Lafayette Square, which was known at that time as a place for cruising.
The loss of the job subjected him to deprivation, and he recalled surviving on 20 cents’ worth of food a day in some of the most difficult times. It forced his life into new paths.
On one occasion, he permitted himself to speculate on how things might have turned out if he had not been dismissed at a time when interest in space exploration was growing.
He suggested that he might have become an astronaut.
“I might have gone to the moon,” he said.
Survivors include a sister.
Staff writer Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.