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Renowned Businessman, Gay Activist Dies At 59

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Photo Of Man Holding The Gay Pride Flag. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – A renowned businessman and community activist in Chicago’s gay community has died at the age of 59.

Roger “R.J.” Chaffin died this past Friday after a short illness, the Windy City Times reported.

Chaffin was inducted into Chicago’s Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in 1997. At that time, he was described as “one of Chicago’s most visible gay businesspersons for more than 25 years” who raised thousands of dollars for AIDS charities.

The Ohio native moved to Chicago in 1974, and joined the staff of the old GayLife Magazine – for which he later became a writer, entertainment editor, critic and business manager, the Hall of Fame recalls.

In 1974, Chaffin and his partner were the subject of a three-part feature in the Chicago Sun-Times about same-sex relationships, which included coverage of a ceremony to honor their union at a Chicago church.

He co-produced “Crimes of Hate,” a documentary on the crisis of gay-bashing, in 1989, his biography recalls.

He was also director of the Circus Vargas Big Top, which raised thousands for HIV/AIDS charities, and directed the Leather Marketplace at the International Mr. Leather event for 18 years, the Windy City Times recalled.

Chaffin was also the owner of R.J.’s Video, originally in the 400 block of North Clark Street and later on Halsted Street in Boystown. He was also the owner of the now-shuttered Ragin’ RaeJean’s gift shop, formerly at 3450 N. Halsted St.

In 2008, a Yelp critic who had visited the gift shop called Chaffin “one of THE nicest, funniest men in this city.”

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