Cleve Jones (born October 11, 1954) is an American AIDS and LGBT rights activist. He conceived the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt which has become, at 54 tons, the world’s largest piece of community folk art as of 2016. In 1983, at the onset of the AIDS pandemic Jones co-founded the San Francisco AIDS Foundation which has grown into one of the largest and most influential People with AIDS advocacy organizations in the United States.
His career as an activist began in San Francisco during the turbulent 1970s when, as a newcomer to the city, he was befriended by pioneer gay-rights leader Harvey Milk. Jones worked as a student intern in Milk’s office while studying political science at San Francisco State University.
Throughout his activism journey, he has been featured and portrayed by notable actors, in many different biopics of several icons covering the early days of the LGBTQ Liberation movement amidst the AIDS crisis.
Jones is portrayed by actor Emile Hirsch in Milk, director Gus Van Sant’s 2008 biopic of Harvey Milk.
Jones is prominently featured in And the Band Played On, Randy Shilts’s best-selling 1987 work of non-fiction about the AIDS epidemic in the United States. Jones was also featured in the 1995 documentary film The Castro.
Jones was one of the Official Grand Marshals of the 2009 NYC LGBT Pride March, produced by Heritage of Pride joining Dustin Lance Black and Anne Kronenberg on June 28, 2009. In August 2009, Jones was an official Grand Marshal of the Vancouver Pride Parade.
Jones participated as an actor in the Los Angeles premiere of 8, a condensed theatrical re-enactment of the Perry v. Schwarzenegger trial’s closure, on March 3, 2012.
Jones is portrayed by actors Austin P. McKenzie and Guy Pearce in the 2017 ABC television miniseries When We Rise, directed by Gus Van Sant.
Jones had a cameo appearance playing himself in Looking: The Movie in 2016.