Randy Shilts was born in 1951 in Davenport, Iowa, and grew up in Aurora, Illinois, in a religious, conservative household. Shilts majored in journalism at the University of Oregon, where he came out as a gay man. He is the author of three books, beginning with 1982's The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk, a biography of the San Francisco politician who was assassinated in 1978. Shilts' second book, And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic, came out in 1987 and brought the author widespread attention. The best-selling account of the genesis of the AIDS epidemic in the United States won the Stonewall Book Award and was nominated for a National Book Award. The book was translated into seven languages and was later made into an Emmy Award-winning HBO film...Show More »
Shilts' third and final book was the 1993 Conduct Unbecoming: Gays and Lesbians in the U.S. Military.
Shilts was a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle beginning in 1981, covering gay civil rights issues and the AIDS crisis. He became a national correspondent in 1998, the same year he received the Outstanding Author award from the American Society of Journalists and Authors. He was also the recipient of the 1993 Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists' Association. Shilts was diagnosed with AIDS in 1987 and died of complications from the disease in 1994, at age 42.