OUTstanding Virginians 2011

Judd Proctor and Brian Burns

The Rainbow Minute

If you listen to 97.3 WRIR-FM you already know Judd and Brian. If you tune or log in to the internationally syndicated shows “This Way Out” or “IMRU” you’ve probably heard their work. “The Rainbow Minute” is a beloved institution, informing and entertaining people around the world every weekday from a small independent station on Richmond’s West Broad Street. Over 125 volunteers – including lawmakers and other prominent Virginians – wait weeks for the chance to read 60-second scripts on subjects ranging from the philosophy of Mary Wollstonecraft to Archie Comics’ first openly gay character. After six years on the air, the show will broadcast its 1,000th episode this spring.

“The Rainbow Minute” began in a moment of frustration shortly after the 2004 Presidential election. Judd and Brian, committed partners since 1995, were upset over the way gay marriage had been used as political scare tactic. Judd felt such tactics could be countered if the public became aware of the many contributions of sexual minorities to American history and society. So the two decided to tell the “untold or forgotten stories” of LGBT people on the air in a brief format following the model of Dan Roberts’ popular “Moment In Time.”

Nobody was better suited to mount the project than Judd and Brian. Judd, who retired last year after 40 years as an elementary school teacher, was already well known in the Greater Richmond community for his advocacy of LGBT causes, as well as for championing teachers’ issues and students’ rights. He also had national stature as a board member of the National Education Association’s LGBT caucus. Brian describes him as “the engine behind ‘The Rainbow Minute.’” Brian, a former art director at the Martin Agency, is “the true writer in the family,” according to Judd: “He takes my rough draft scripts and makes the copy sound wonderful.”

With their combined talents and the willingness of the fledgling WRIR to host the project, success was guaranteed. Both Judd and Brian agree that their proudest achievement was hearing the Rainbow Minute air internationally for the first time in 2006. It wasn’t just a personal triumph: it was a huge step forward in fulfilling the show’s mission “to challenge stereotypes, instill compassion, and make the entire gay community even prouder of who they are.”

Sometimes, though, more direct steps are needed to ensure equality, and Judd and Brian don’t shy away from the fight. Here too, their different temperaments combine to great effect. Judd, a “natural activist,” will approach anyone anytime about anything, while Brian, who has a more reserved nature, fine-tunes the message. Together, they harnessed social persuasion and the purchasing power of the LGBT community to prod major Richmond-based banks, stores, and cultural institutions to strengthen their nondiscrimination policies. Judd recalls challenging several nationally prominent politicians face to face on their reluctance to support full equality. To which Brian adds a telling detail: “And of course Judd was wearing his signature Converse high tops.”

The two were married in Massachusetts in 2006 on St. Patrick’s Day. As one of the first same-sex married couples living in Virginia, they attracted a lot of media attention. When Channel 6 was looking for a couple to spotlight, they went right to Judd and Brian. “We got the call at eleven, did the interview at one and were on the air at five-thirty,” says Brian. Judd, who says he’s “the most out person in the area,” sees public acknowledgement as a good thing for everyone: “Unless you embrace who you are and live authentically, you limit your true potential and happiness. It’s also important for the sake of the larger community—there’s power in numbers.”

Next up for the couple, improvements to “The Rainbow Minute,” such as more inclusive themes and original music by Judd. Meanwhile, Brian is well along on a book project—a biography of Richmond philanthropist Lewis Ginter. Ginter, the namesake of Richmond’s famed botanical garden, lived openly with his protégé John Pope in the late nineteenth century. The project is in negotiation with a publisher and is tentatively scheduled to go to press in the fall. Interestingly, Brian got into the project through another passion: horticulture. Whether it’s plants, a book, a radio show or social justice, Brian and Judd have a knack for making things grow.