Photo via East Carolina University.

Dr. Jesse Peel Dies at 83

Atlanta’s queer community is reeling at the news of Dr. Jesse Peel’s passing on December 28, 2023, at the age of 83.

The North Carolina native lived a life of activism, advocacy, and compassion, dedicating his life to helping people living with HIV/AIDS as well as the entire LGBTQ community. Dr. Peel attended University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where he attended medical school before completing his residency in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. In Atlanta, his psychiatric practice served gay men, and when many of his clients began dying during the AIDS epidemic, Dr. Peel was at the forefront of advocacy efforts as a founding member of several activist groups.

Among those were AID Atlanta and Positive Impact, two organizations still working in Atlanta to address and eradicate HIV/AIDS. He was also active on many boards in Atlanta, including the Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus, Lost-N-Found Youth, and Actor’s Express. He also helped establish the Dr. Jesse R. Peel LGBTQ Center at East Carolina University in 2014, which provides support and community to queer students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

“It is with great sadness that we mourn the loss of Dr. Jesse Peel alongside our entire community,” Out Front Theatre Company wrote on Facebook. “Jesse was a part of Out Front’s family since day one. After seeing our inaugural production of Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical in 2016, he sent an email to Paul Conroy that simply said, ‘Perhaps I can be of some help.’ That small show of desire to support LGBTQIA+ theatre was emblematic of who Jesse was; a giving human who felt that he could always do more. We were honored to have Jesse in our audience more times than we can count and to also have him serve on our Board of Directors. He always entered the theater with a smile and left telling the staff that he would see us again soon… The world is a better place because Jesse was a part of it, and we are a better company because he was kind enough to share his gifts with us. He will be missed but he will not be forgotten.”

“The Atlanta Sisters had one of their first supporters in the city in Jesse,” the Atlanta Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence posted to Facebook. “He opened up his home and heart to us. Later joining the board of a project under the wing of the sisters non-profit before it became Lost-N-Found Youth. Thank you for all of your service to community and welcoming everyone to Camp Merton.”

“Jesse Peel became my friend, confidant, and co-conspirator exactly 30 years ago when I moved to Atlanta,” Mark King wrote on Facebook. “He founded every major HIV/AIDS group in town, mentored countless young activists, and was once my phone call from jail. His loss cannot be measured. The lives he nurtured – and those he saved outright – are his legacy. I love you, Jesse. But you knew that. Rest in heavenly peace.”

A funeral service for Jesse will be held in Atlanta on Saturday, January 27, 2024, at 2pm at St. Mark United Methodist Church, located at 781 Peachtree Street, NE, Atlanta, GA, 30308.  Visitation will take place from 1:15 to 2pm in the chapel prior to the service. A celebration of his life will take place at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, on Saturday, February 24 at 3pm.

Editor’s note (1/18/23): This article was updated with Dr. Jesse Peel’s funeral service information.