Following the verdict, a folklore of rage developed around Dan White. The most famous, told in the bar of the Castros and under the State Capitol dome in Sacramento, was that White had insisted that he'd done it because he ate too many Twinkies. What his psychiatrists had said, though, was that they saw his excessive consumption of junk food as a symptom, not a cause, of his depression. White's was a simple diminished capacity defense, arguing that he'd shown a long history of depression, not that chemical additives in his food had driven him mad. Nevertheless, "Twinkie Defense" entered the folk speech as a epithet for spurious claims to mental illness. Among players of online computer games, it was shortened to "twink" and used to refer to those who got their thrills by killing other virtual players.
Angry but stupid people called it "karma" when Mary Ann White -- who was in her late thirties (a period of high risk for birth defects) -- gave birth to the Downs-Syndrome afflicted Rory, the product of a conjugal visit with her husband. The universe is neither so callous nor so kind. The White's next child, Laura, was conceived during Dan's yearlong parole in Los Angeles. She showed no supposed marks of wrath from the universe.
Better observers, among them close friends of Harvey Milk, were kinder towards Mary Ann White. Milk's lover, Scott Smith, was not surprised by White's suicide. Cleve Jones, a former Milk aide, sighed and said: "The lesson is that bigotry kills people. Bigotry killed George Moscone and Harvey Milk. It has taken Dan White's life, and, sadly enough, it probably will destroy the lives of his wife and their children."¹
After White killed himself, there some asked where he could be buried. A spokesman for the Archdiocese of San Francisco noted that the Church had, in the post-Vatican II era, given up the practice of refusing to bury suicides in consecrated ground. "Today," he went on to say, "it is the Church's feeling that a person must be crazy to commit suicide. And we place the insane in the hands of God for his mercy and his judgement."²
White's family chose not to have him buried at Holy Cross where Moscone was laid to rest seven years before. They chose, instead, another cemetery located two miles south of Colma. The Veterans Administration, like the Catholic Church, did not judge a man for what he had done in his life -- as long as he had an honorable discharge. White was buried in the Golden Gate National Cemetery, an endless phalanx of identical, bowed-top white stones set upon acres and acres of green grass. Among these monuments, Dan's grave would be hard for vandals to find. The Veteran's Administration agreed not to give out his grave's location. And, in the company of his father Charlie, Admiral Chester Nimitz, and thousands of other men who had served in America's wars, Dan would be seen as a hero for something he had done in his life, before he wreaked his unheroic vengeance on George Moscone and Harvey Milk.
In his book Left Coast City, Richard Edward DeLeon gives a fair assessment of Moscone's legacy:
Moscone....aspired to be the city's first progressive mayor, not merely a liberal mayor in the mold of Alioto. He widened the doors of City Hall to let more people in--perhaps too many for his own political good. His appointments pierced established bureaucracies and transfused new blood and progressive ideas into city government. Within his limited powers and against great obstacles, he challenged the conservative establishment and the downtown business elite. At the very least he made progressive government thinkable. If he was weak, it might be only because he decided to swim upstream rather than downstream in the treacherous currents of San Francisco politics.¹¹
George Moscone had never been a rich man. When he died, the man reputed by his enemies to be the kingpin of the City's cocaine trade had fifteen cents in his pocket and $3,955 in his bank account.³ He was worth more to Gina in death than in life, though undoubtably she would have turned down the $900,000 in benefits awarded her by the Board of Supervisors if George could have been somehow resurrected. She loved her husband.
In death, many chose to honor Moscone in ways that he would not have appreciated in life. Legislators, who eulogized him on the floor of the California State Senate and Assembly, cast votes in Moscone's memory to require the death penalty in special circumstances such as the killing of a public official. The "Twinkie Defense" was invoked by those who eschewed California's diminished capacity defense. After Dan White, men and women with more reasonable cases of diminished capacity were thereafter irrevocably condemned to execution or imprisonment without psychiatric help of any kind. "Remember Dan White" was the cry which lured some liberals into supporting the 1982 Proposition 8, the Victim's Bill of Rights. Nobody seemed to remember George Moscone or Harvey Milk, both of whom called for compassion towards those disturbed enough to commit crimes. Republican George Deukmejian wept as he recalled George Moscone to his peers in the State Senate. As attorney general and as Governor, however, he disregarded Moscone's political testament against capital punishment and ordered the deaths of as many men as the appeals process would let him kill. Forgiveness was not part of the post-Moscone agenda.
Moscone's cherished District elections, which had elected the likes of Harvey Milk and Carol Ruth Silver, were narrowly thrown out in 1980. The Chamber of Commerce and others who financed the campaign told voters that District elections were bad, in part, because they'd made it possible for Dan White to run and win.
The City and County Board of Supervisors did its part to warp the meaning of Moscone political testament. The Yerba Buena Center was rechristened the Moscone Center. Again, no one recollected that Moscone had championed the indigents and pensioners who were dispossessed by construction of the center.
One monument exists which gives Moscone the kind of memorial which the man both deserves and would have appreciated. It is that which marks his grave. Holy Cross Cemetery is the last resting place of many San Franciscan Catholic politicians and civic leaders. Down the hill from Moscone, you can walk through a section of huge mausoleums where the likes of former governor John G. Downey and Senator James G. Fair are buried. Reform Mayor James D. Phelan and his successor, the alledgedly corrupt Eugene Schmitz, are also interred here. Michael H. DeYoung, the founder of the Chronicle, chose to be buried here instead of in Cypress Lawn where his brother Charles, a devoted son and assassin, is buried with their mother. All have impressive monoliths or mausoleums erected to their memory. All are entombed in the finest sections of Holy Cross, where wealthy Catholics could await the Lord's Judgement in comfort.
Moscone, though, is buried in one of those modern sections where the stones are flush to the ground.¹² On the day his funeral cortege arrived in Colma, stringent security measures were put in place. Police stationed sharpshooters atop All Saints Mausoleum. Armed guards watched key intersections. Bomb squads roved the park. After all, important men such as governors, members of Congress, state legislators, and other mayors had come to pay their respects.
Moscone rests in the middle of St. Michael's mound. His stone bears only his name, his dates and a simple message from his family:
Buried near Moscone are various unimportant people: Italians, Mexicans, Irishmen and others of the San Francisco middle class whose names never appeared on the front page of any newspaper or in the television news. His family made sure that George Moscone would be among his true peers and the beneficiaries of his service to both city and state. He was a man of the people and with the people he is buried. It is easy to walk past his grave. The only distinctive feature nearby is a stainless steel statue of Saint Michael.
Those who cherished him most remind us that the thing they loved best about George Moscone was his humility. He never forgot that he was like us. He lived in the city. He loved a woman and had children by her. He loved those children even as he worked to protect those who had no loving parents. He respected those like Harvey Milk whose life path took him in a different direction and he worked to grant them dignity under the law. George Moscone was able to do this because he loved and was loved in return. His four word epitaph tell us that this was a man worth knowing.