Melvin Boozer, 41, a Democratic Party activist and former Peace Corps volunteer who was a past president of the D.C. Gay Activists Alliance and a national leader of groups seeking homosexual rights, died March 6 at the Washington Hospital Center. He had acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).
Mr. Boozer was president of the alliance from 1979 to 1981. For the next two years, he was Washington director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, which monitors personnel practices.
From 1983 to 1984, he was cochairman of the Langston Hughes-Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club, a group he helped found in 1982 to give greater voice to lesbians and gay blacks. He also served on the national board of Americans for Democratic Action.
In 1980, he was elected an alternate delegate to the Democratic National Convention in New York City on the slate of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.). He was a member of the 1984 steering committee of Jesse Jackson's presidential campaign and was in charge of the Jackson campaign for D.C. homosexuals.
At the 1980 convention, Mr. Boozer's name was placed in nomination for vice president. He received fewer than 40 votes. But in a moving address, he called on delegates to help fight discrimination against people who, like himself, were black or homosexual.
He said, "I know what it means to be called a nigger, and I know what it means to be called a faggot, and I can sum up the difference in one word: none."
On Feb. 2, Mayor Marion Barry and several City Council members gathered to honor Mr. Boozer and his work. In January, failing health forced him to retire after four years as public information coordinator of the D.C. Association for Retarded Citizens.
Mr. Boozer was a native of Washington. He told reporters that he had barely known his father. His mother did domestic work, and his stepfather was a janitor. The homes where he grew up lacked electricity.
His path led first to Dunbar High School, where he graduated second in his class in 1963. He had been colonel of the school's prestigious cadet corps, editor of the school newspaper and president of the school press club. In 1963, the Washington Jaycees presented him with an "outstanding teen-ager" award.
Mr. Boozer won scholarships that enabled him to attend Dartmouth College, where he graduated in 1967 with a degree in sociology. He spent the next three years in Brazil as a community development worker with the Peace Corps. He then pursued advanced studies at Oberlin College and earned a master's degree in sociology at Yale University.
After returning to Washington in the mid-1970s, he became an assistant professor at the University of Maryland.
In 1979, he marched in the first National Gay Rights March in Washington and emerged as an activist in behalf of homosexual rights. Mr. Boozer said in a number of interviews that he had kept the homosexual side of his life hidden through his college years, but that he had had a number of homosexual encounters in Brazil.
Survivors include his mother, Lossie Brown, and one half-sister, Corrie Brown, both of Washington, and one brother, Russell Boozer of Maryland.