Ray Hill was born in Houston, Texas, in 1940. His first career was as a teenage evangelist, but he gave that job up for more honest work: burglary. In 1970, he received a 160-year prison sentence for burglary and theft – but after filing an 8th Amendment writ of Habeus corpus, he got his 160 years reduced to eight. Ray had more important things to do – primarily, becoming a tireless advocate for gay rights and civil rights. Along the way, Ray never stopped speaking his mind in ways that severely discomfit the powers-that-be.   

Just days out of prison, Ray created a radio show about gay issues for a local, progressive radio channel, KPFT-FM. He later dreamt up a groundbreaking radio program called The Prison Show. The show engaged the listening audience, inmates, their family members and prison employees, forging a public dialogue about the prison system. 

In 1976, Ray co-founded and organized the Houston Lesbian and Gay Pride Week. Three years later, he served as the chair of the executive and coordinating committees for the first national March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights. Since then, he has spearheaded numerous organizations that fight for First Amendment rights, LGBTQ equality, and the rights of the incarcerated. 

Ray has won four federal suits against the city of Houston for police abuses, including the landmark 1987 Supreme Court Case Houston V Hill. At the time, Houston law prohibited “willfully or intentionally interrupting a city policeman by verbal challenge during an investigation.” Ray victoriously claimed that Americans have a constitutional right to speak to an officer in the line of duty. Ray also helped John Lawrence usher his case against sodomy laws through the U.S. federal court system. In 2004, the Supreme Court ruled Lawrence’s favor in Lawrence v. Texas, ending the criminalization of gay male sex in America. In 1999, Ray received a Lifetime Achievement award from the Houston Chapter of the ACLU. He’s been featured in several documentary films, including the upcoming “The Trouble with Ray”.

In February 2017, OUTWORDS received an email from Ray, who asked, “Are you one of those projects that just focus on people on the coasts?” Ray is justifiably proud of Houston’s role in the American gay rights movement. “We do well down here,” he wrote, “but nobody knows about it.” Hopefully his OUTWORDS interview will help change that, bringing a measure of well-deserved recognition to both the city of Houston, and to Ray Hill.

Ray passed away in November 2018. His funeral was held on the steps of Houston City Hall.
Ray Hill: [00:00:00] ... only gets 20% of what they receive from you. The rest of it, the other 80% is from their experience, and their imagination. So you're only contributing 20%. Now if you can do that, in words that draw pictures their brain will expand on that, and it's a richer reception and therefore more persuasive.
Mason Funk: Right, right, right.
Amy Bench: [00:00:30] We're getting a lot of movement with the law. I don't think the boom is set up yet.
Mason Funk: Oh the boom is not set up. You're getting a lot of movement meaning?
Amy Bench: Scratching.
Mason Funk: Scratching. Oh okay. This is not my style.
Ray Hill: She said we are 100 paces away from the most beautiful beaches in the world. I spent three days running barefoot in the sand with Margaret Meade. That was a remarkable educational experience for me.
Mason Funk: [00:01:00] Wow. She must have been ... was she was pretty elderly by then?
Ray Hill: She was elderly then. She lived for me to get out of prison. And she came to Houston in 1977, which was 40 years ago this year, to the International Women's Year Conference. And they gave her time on the stage, and they gave her only seven minutes, and she said, "How do I do this?" I said, "The first thing you do is get up and override the applause and say, "Stop Applauding, you're taking my precious time.
Ray Hill: [00:01:30] I've only got seven minutes here and I want you to hear what I've got to say." And she talked about the transactional and analytic dynamic of changing of women's priorities over how the world had worked up until that point. It was a beautiful speech, but they did exactly what she said. She got up and said, "How did you know they would do that?" And I said, "Hon, I've been working this crowd long enough." And we laughed and had a good time. She was dead in two months.
Mason Funk: [00:02:00] Wow. Wow.
Amy Bench: Can we stop here?
Mason Funk: Yep.
Amy Bench: The mic is-
Mason Funk: We've been fighting these wireless mics because we don't want to see them if we can avoid it.
Ray Hill: Vanity, vanity.
Mason Funk: Vanity. Vanity. My name is-
Ray Hill: I am used to having a microphone. I pull it out here. Run it down my sleeve.
Mason Funk: Yeah.
Ray Hill: I am used to butt plug microphones. Live in a world of them.
Amy Bench: While we're talking about the microphone, can you move the cable to your left.
Mason Funk: Slide it around to the slide.
Amy Bench: [00:02:30] Slide it just out of the shot. Yeah.
Ray Hill: Well, if you're shooting my crotch-
Amy Bench: Well, it's-
Ray Hill: Cable probably improves the situation.
Mason Funk: Is that better, Amy? It's still coming out the side of-[crosstalk]
Amy Bench: Yeah. I just ... it ... Yeah, it is.
Ray Hill: Okay.
Mason Funk: It's ugly if you see the cable coming out the bottom-[crosstalk]
Amy Bench: And I'm not really seeing your crotch. I just didn't want to sneak up there.
Ray Hill: Well, I hope not.
Mason Funk: [00:03:00] All right.
Ray Hill: That gave you focus problems. There's not a whole-lot there to see.
Mason Funk: Right.
Ray Hill: Me and Donald Trump have similar problems.
Mason Funk: Oh no. Oh no.
Ray Hill: Okay, let's get started.
Mason Funk: [crosstalk] is he speeding?
Amy Bench: Yeah, you're okay with the position of-[crosstalk]
Ray Hill: So we gonna do this Q&A?
Mason Funk: Of the what?
Amy Bench: Part of the-
Mason Funk: Oh no. Sorry, sorry, sorry. There's one last thing that we already wanted you ... thank you Amy. There's a little place back here where the fabric is peeling off the wall and it makes your radio station look a little dumpy.
Ray Hill: [00:03:30] Well, it does ... it is dumpy. It's supposed to look dumpy.
Mason Funk: We don't have to accentuate the dumpiness though.
Mason Funk: I didn't fly all the way to Houston to interview somebody in a dumpy ... well, dumpy-
Ray Hill: You take them where you get them.
Mason Funk: Right now, that's true too.
Ray Hill: Knocking around the country in the early days of FM, every station had a little FM thing.
Ray Hill: [00:04:00] And I would go in and we'd have the interview and then the interview was supposed to be over, but we didn't leave the studio. So I knew this was the real interview. I mean, duh. I'm not stupid. And so that's when I put on ... but I got right up to the line of saying one of the deadly words and I could see them get uncomfortable because I'm playing them, right? Guess whos in charge of the situation? Guess whos getting their
Ray Hill: [00:04:30] message homogenated and concentrated and sent over the air? But it happened 40 times; Kansas City, Saint Louis, Dubuque. Early days of FM. It was a far more pliable thing. That's all packaged in ... one source plays all over the country. Back then it was hands on the radio.
Mason Funk: Wow.
Ray Hill: I love that era.
Mason Funk: Do me a favor. Just tell us your name and spell it out.
Ray Hill: [00:05:00] My real name is Raymond Wayne Hill. R-A-Y-M-O-N-D W-A-Y-N-E H-I-L-L, but if you call me that, I'll think you're a cop. My real name is Ray Hill.
Mason Funk: And give me your birthdate and your place of birth.
Ray Hill: October 13, 1940. I was born in Houston, Texas at Baptist Memorial Hospital, which at that time was located across the street from City Hall. And that was rather clairvoyant because I spent the rest of my life demonstrating in front of the building across the street from where I was born.
Mason Funk: [00:05:30] Excellent. Okay. So I want to get to this prison story because you keep kind of referring to it in passing, like after I got out of prison, but I'm not quite sure how many times you've been to prison.
Ray Hill: Well, I was supposed to go twice, but this is Texas. So arrangements can be made. The first time I was supposed to go to prison, I had started a crime spree in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Ray Hill: [00:06:00] I met a young man by the name of Thomas Dickey Hanson. Son of rich people. Class. Your dreams. The guy you dream about marrying, but he had been kicked out of the house for being queer. So the wealth was ... his people had been in the same business as the Kennedy's. They were liquor distributors. And so Thomas Dickey and a friend of his and I loaded up in a Nash Metropolitan and headed to California.
Ray Hill: [00:06:30] And on the way I supported them by writing hot checks, pulling all kinds of con jobs along the way. I told the people at Goldwater's Department Store that I was part of Ladybird Johnson's staff. We took them to the cleaner's, and they didn't know what hit them. And they didn't realize how much they'd lost until after we'd already left town. Well, that began to fall apart in San Diego.
Ray Hill: [00:07:00] And I was arrested in San Diego. And if you're going to get arrested, there are worse places to get arrested and San Diego, California, the gay wane, which is the jail tank where the queers live, is on the penthouse, and you can look out the window and see good looking people playing on the beach. It's a nice place and, of course, this is San Diego. Most perfect weather in the country. Just leave the windows open, and it's like cool at night and not really hot in the daytime.
Ray Hill: [00:07:30] And the rest of the jail is very segregated. They put Hispanic people here and black people there and white people there and they put violent criminals here and non-violent criminals there, but if you're in the gay wane being queer trumps all of that, and so there's everything in the gay wane. So it's a cultural malaise of fascinating people to study while you're there. And so I'm stuck in San Diego County jail for months. I'm wanted in every state from Louisiana to California,
Ray Hill: [00:08:00] but the other states decided it's not worth their trouble to come get me and the Goldwater Department Store people just don't want to talk about it. They didn't realize that they had been that gullible. So they just didn't want to talk about that so the Arizona thing fell off first. And then New Mexico and then Louisiana and so all I had was California and Texas. So they gave Texas notice
Ray Hill: [00:08:30] that they had reduced my sentence to misdemeanor and I had served enough time in jail to have discharged my responsibility and they were going to let me go in 90 days if Texas didn't come get me. And so a fella by the name of Marvin Zimmer, you don't know who that is, but he is in the Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and he was very proud that his role was played by Dom Deluise, so that gives you an image of who Marvin was.
Ray Hill: [00:09:00] And Marvin was the bring 'em back alive guy for Harris County Sheriff's Department. So he shows up in a country hat, and a western cut suit. I'm Deputy Marvin Zimmer from Harris County. I work for High Sheriff Buck McCurn. I'm here to pick up Ray Wayne Hill and take him back to Texas for see justice. And he puts me in handcuffs and leg irons and then chains, big belt with a ring in it. Chains from my feet to my hands. Chink, chink. I looked like an extra on Marquis de Sade movie.
Ray Hill: [00:09:30] And I go out and get in a Ford and he just muscled his way into the traffic. I mean, I'm a Sheriff. I got the right of way. And so he muscled in and California traffic is not real yielding. And we went around the corner from the jail, and he pulled up in this unsecured parking lot and he gets out, and he gets me out, and he starts taking all this stuff off of me. And he said, "You didn't practice your extradition did yeah?"
Ray Hill: [00:10:00] And I said, "No, sir." "Sign for it?" "Yes, sir." "You know you gotta go back to Texas and stand trial?" And I said, "Yes, sir. I know that." "Well, I'm a little hungover. Do you mind driving?" And so on my extradition trip from San Diego, California to Houston, Texas I drove. And he slept in the back seat, snoring and farting most of the way. Now, he said, "Stop in Tucson and put you up in jail there for the night and then we'll continue the journey." So I got to Tucson. I don't think I can drive up ...
Ray Hill: [00:10:30] I don't know where the jail is. So I stopped at a good looking truck stop that serves steak, and I woke him up, and I said, "I don't think I'm supposed to be driving when we-" "You're right. You're on. I got it. Don't worry about it, but let's go in and get something to eat while we're here." So I got a good steak meal. Got in the car. He had me in the backseat with just handcuffs on. He drove into the Sally Port at the Tucson jail.
Mason Funk: [00:11:00] I was probably-
Amy Bench: Sorry, I see you in the frame when you're-[crosstalk]
Ray Hill: And so we get to the jail and a guy comes out to greet the car. He gets out and puts on his hat. First thing, put on the hat. "I'm Deputy Sheriff of Harris County. I've got a fugitive in tow here. I need to leave him here so I can get some rest." And the deputy said, "Not in this jail." He said, "What do you mean?" He said, "Well, the last fugitive you had in tow, you left him here
Ray Hill: [00:11:30] and you went on and you had some trouble with the city police. We thought we were going to have to bail your ass out of jail before we got rid of you and your fugitive. And you haven't paid us for that and you're not going to leave-" "Pay you? I mean, this is a fugitive. I'm a law officer. What do you mean pay you?" And he said, "We charge $40 a night for fugitive housing." And he said, "Well, hell I can put him up at the Holiday Inn for that kind of money." "We suggest you do that."
Ray Hill: [00:12:00] And so he called them all kinds of mothers and then we got in the car and I drove all the way to El Paso. But that was that trip and then when I got to trial, Judge Ottum sentenced me to six years, but he delayed the implementation of that sentence. For 90 days for me to get my business in order. I'm 25 years old. Why do I need 90 days to get my business in order?
Ray Hill: [00:12:30] Well, it was an arrangement made by my father who is a politician in Harris County. He served a lot of boards and school boards and things. And so when it came time for me to go to prison, I went to the back gate of the Walls Unit where I was supposed to report at close of the day. Got there by 5 o'clock. Guy up on the picket said, "Who are you and what are you doing here?" And I said, "Well, I'm Raymond Wayne Hill. I'm supposed to be here."
Ray Hill: [00:13:00] He looked at the clipboard and he said, "Oh, okay. Wait a minute. A warden will be over here to pick you up in a minute." Howard Sublett, Warden of the Wynn Unit, they called him Momma Sublett if that gives you an image. Convicts called the Warden Momma Sublett. He was a den mother kind of warden. He showed up in his car and he said, "Where's your clothes?" And I said, "Wait a minute. They're on me. I'm going to prison." He said, "No, no, no.
Ray Hill: [00:13:30] The way it's going to work on my unit, you're going to live in the officer's bachelor dormitory."
Mason Funk: Excuse me. Okay.
Ray Hill: You're going to live in the officer's bachelor dormitory. And you're going to go in the compound every day and teach GED classes. And you're going to do that until I tell you, you can go, and so for about the next eight months, I lived in the officer's ...
Ray Hill: [00:14:00] nobody knew I was a convict, but I did that six years in that time, and finally Warden Sublett said, "I'm going to miss you. I don't want to let you go." He said, "You've been a hand here." And he said, "You're great company." He said, "Boy, you can tell a story, but it's time for you to go."
Mason Funk: So wait a minute. Who was ... what kind of arrangement was this? How did this all happen?
Ray Hill: I don't know. Raymond and I had gone the month before I reported
Ray Hill: [00:14:30] to Floresville, Texas and we bought a calf from John Conley's ranch. We paid $140 for the calf, which was worth about $20 in the going market at the time. John Conley was the Governor. And so for $120 I beat an eight year sentence in Texas politics.
Ray Hill: [00:15:00] That was the first time switching, so I knew something about prison. And so I wasn't afraid to go when it came time for me to go and was sentenced to 160 years for commercial burglary. You don't normally get-
Mason Funk: This is a separate, this is a-
Ray Hill: This is a separate case. This is years later.
Ray Hill: This is in 1970. That was in like 1962.
Ray Hill: And so I get a 160 year sentence. 20 consecutive eight year sentences to go to Texas prison for commercial burglaries,
Ray Hill: [00:15:30] which were ... I was in newspapers every day. Four and a half million dollar Burglar Ring Busted Leader Head of Houston's Gay Movement, Leader Refuses to Identify Co-conspirators. You don't steal that many antiques by yourself, so you've got to have a crew. And I had a wonderful crew.
Ray Hill: [00:16:00] It was my responsibility, so I did the time. And then I got to prison and when you go to prison sentenced to 160 years, the first thing you're worried about, "All right, now I'm not living in an officer's bachelor dormitory. I'm living over here. How do I survive?" I had that figured out in about a week. And then how do you prosper here and what does prosper here mean? Well, my job assignment was maintenance/bookkeeper. I was supposed to keep the lights on, the water running, doors open.
Ray Hill: [00:16:30] In prison, opening and closing doors is a really big deal. And it was my job as the inmate bookkeeper in the maintenance department to make sure that the prison functioned. And I did that. Crews make great bureaucrats. They used to call us eunuchs, you know? And so we can do wonders with other people's power. But it also gave me a chance to use some of that information I learned from Margaret Meade about transactional analysis and study a different society
Ray Hill: [00:17:00] and how people are individually manifested within a different society. I could have stayed in prison for that whole 160 years, if somebody would supply me in legal pads to make the notes. So to me, going to prison was more like a college research project than a punishment. And because I did my job very well, everybody liked me. I mean, if you're a convict ...
Ray Hill: [00:17:30] I don't care if you're in solitary confinement, if your toilet stops up tell the officer to call Ray Hill. I can fix the toilet. I don't, but I got convicts that do. If you're the Warden and there's a leak in the kitchen faucet, call Ray Hill. I got the convicts that can fix that on short order. You get a call from the Warden, you do that like now. You do everything like it's an emergency. When it comes to wintertime, are there enough thermostats?
Ray Hill: [00:18:00] Which is a part of the heaters on my shelves to fix those that have laid dormant all summer time. You don't run the heater in Texas in the summer time. It had laid dormant on the shelf. Do I have enough new ones to make sure the heaters work when the cold weather hits. And do I have a staff that can replace them in a matter of hours? If the fan belt breaks on the fan, we don't have air conditioning in Texas. We just stir around the hot air with big fans.
Ray Hill: [00:18:30] I got every fan belt I need on the shelf long before I need it. If something breaks on a windmill, I've got a convict crew to go out and fix that windmill till the cows can have water. I dealed with all of that. I'm the maintenance guy. And if you're the maintenance guy, everybody loves you. Plus the fact I'm a convict's convict. First thing I do is when I get the job, is I walk in and they give me starched pressed, very, very white convict uniform.
Ray Hill: [00:19:00] I said, "I don't want that shit. I want the grubby clothes. Give me clothes that somebody has worked in the fields in with dirt stains on it because the maintenance bookkeeper on the Ramsey, while I'm here, is a working man." See the image? Always be image conscious. I mean, hell, you're a convict and you're queer. To make the best of it, project the right image. And so I did.
Ray Hill: [00:19:30] So I was a popular guy. Everybody knew me. Popular guy. The Warden would say, "Don't you have some neater clothes?" And I said, "No, Warden. I'm a working man. You turn keys and the people who work in your office, they do that. I can't do that. I've got a job to do." And he bought it. Sydney [Lunier 00:19:51], was a philosopher warden, he let me dress in his clothes to go to Howard Sublett's funeral and
Ray Hill: [00:20:00] I set with Mrs. Sublett in the family booth at the cemetery and funeral home. So there's a bunch of lessons there. And the main lesson there is I don't care what your circumstance is, you don't have to be nobody. I don't care what it is. Convict, queer, I don't care what it is. If you convince yourself that you don't have to be nobody, you can make yourself somebody
Ray Hill: [00:20:30] and an old faggot by the name of Socrates once said, "Appear to be what you wish to be and thereby become it." And I have used that as a philosophy all my life. I consider myself a working class gay activist. I'm not going to be like the Krups survive the Nazi era because they supplied the steel and they were needed. So they could be queer and get away with it.
Ray Hill: [00:21:00] That's not me. I'm the guy that becomes a central because of what I do with my hands and my mind. And whether you like me or not, you have to put up with me.
Mason Funk: How did you know ... how did you come by this understanding? You came out at 18 from what I read, and it seems like you ... my impression is that you probably came out without a lot of hand wringing and anguish or is that correct or am I mistaken?
Ray Hill: [00:21:30] Well, I had been studying homosexuality and the way you have to do that, when I'm in high school is you have to go to the college library because the high school library didn't have any of that shit. If you go to the college library and you slip surreptitiously into the closed stacks because books about homosexuality were in what they called closed stacks at the time. I mean, Barbara Gettings is famous for running across the library and leaping up on these folding metal wall saying, " Let my books go."
Ray Hill: [00:22:00] I mean, that image of Barbara doing that. I know Barbara. I knew Barbara. She was ... I knew all the big ones in their day. And set down and ... she smoked a pipe. And sit down and have coffee and talk with Barbara Gettings about being a lesbian librarian at a crucial time. Barbara's responsible why we are not on the treatment list of both American Psychological Association of Americans. She did that work.
Ray Hill: [00:22:30] She did that work and she wasn't one of them, but she did that work as a librarian because why she knew what the hell you were because if you want to learn what the hell's going on you go to the library. So I'd been slipping into the closed shelf and learning about who homosexuals were from Edmund Burglar and the most voracious, anti-gay writers of the era, but then I think about Edmund is that his work was so pornographic.
Ray Hill: [00:23:00] He went into great details on what queers did when they were being queer. And it was like a training manual. I needed access to that material at the time and needed to know how to make these things fit. All sexual behavior is learned behavior. That's not necessarily orientation, but even if you figure out your orientation you've still got to learn how to do the behavior. And Edmund Burglar, one of the most homophobic writers of all times, gave me all of that in aces. So I didn't know the word gay,
Ray Hill: [00:23:30] but I did know the word homosexual and it was just time to be honest. I had been a teenage evangelist until I was 17 and I gave that up for more honest work, obviously became a burglar. And so I went into the kitchen and Frankie was in there and I said, my mother, and I said, "Frankie, I'm a homosexual." And she took a puff of her cigarette and a hit off her coffee and she said,
Ray Hill: [00:24:00] " Well, that's a relief." "What do you mean that's a relief?" This was 1958. She said, "Well, Raymond and I", my father and her, had noticed that I tended to dress up more frequently than the other boys in the neighborhood. And they thought that I was pretending to be wealthier than we are. They were afraid I might grow up to be a Republican, but if I'm gay they can handle that. And so we had a big family meeting
Ray Hill: [00:24:30] where Frankie announced to my sisters that I, Butch Wayne, that was nickname, Butch Wayne was gay that, that's all right and if the neighbors say unkind things, defend him. That's kind of ... both Frankie and Raymond were labor goons. Raymond organized shipyard workers for the AFL/CIO during World War II. And Frankie tried to organize nurses for the Teamster's Union.
Ray Hill: [00:25:00] Her work did not work at all, but she was very proud of the effort. Raymond was very proud to be union. The only reason I played high school football is to give Raymond something to talk about at the union hall. That was it. I hated football, but I played football so that Raymond had something to talk about. I had a lot of respect for these people and to say that Frankie and Raymond didn't have an impression on me, well, they introduced me to Saul Alinsky who may have well saved my life.
Ray Hill: [00:25:30] Saul Alinsky is the theorist of activism. True vines from Saul Alinsky are the Acorn Organization and the Metropolitan Organization. Those are the true vines from Saul Alinsky. The Metropolitan Organization continues because it's kind of middle class. ACORN, which is like in the ghetto and the vardio, you walk in the door here are black people or Hispanic people running the show. Go in the back room. There's a bunch of Jewish students back there
Ray Hill: [00:26:00] who are plotting and planning and figuring out the theories and ethics and all of this. Saul Alinsky was a great theorist. So I learned Saul Alinsky's theories from my parents. And applied them to the rest of my life. I'm a journey qualified, Saul Alinsky activist.
Mason Funk: Ah, so now you come out to your parents in the late 50s and then we kind of come into the 60s and when do you start realizing that you are going to take all this theory that you're learning and start-
Ray Hill: [00:26:30] Well, I mean, when you learn all this theory, it's an unruly child. Really. Because you have all these ideas. You have all these concepts. And you have all these principles. And the two books of Saul Alinsky are Reveille for Radicals, which called you to the front line, and then just as important is his second book, Rules for Radicals, where he teaches you that if you're going to apply these first book theories,
Ray Hill: [00:27:00] you're going to get and sustain power, and if you've got power, you use power in these ethical ways. So Rules for Radicals is just as important as Reveille for Radicals. This is how you do it. This is your responsibility when you're doing it. And I studied both books carefully. Frankie and Raymond had them on the shelf. So I read it. And there's a lot of ... in Saul Alinsky ... one of my documentaries ...
Ray Hill: [00:27:30] no, it's in my screenplay, The Miracle of Modern Belief. I wrote a screenplay about my experiences as a teenage evangelist. And in that I have Jimmy Hull who's this local boy, aged peer and we're wrestling around doing boy stuff. And I'm studying Saul Alinsky and he picks up the book and he starts reading it,
Ray Hill: [00:28:00] and Saul Alinsky uses a lot of ... of course, Alinsky's Jewish, but he uses a lot of New Testament imagery in there, especially in Rules for Radicals. There's nothing wrong with Christian morality, it's just that a moral is an ethic for which you don't have to have a rationale and here's your rationale to plant to that. And he quotes a lot of scripture in there and I have my character, Jimmy Hull, whos my boyfriend at the time saying,
Ray Hill: [00:28:30] "This reads a lot like you preacher boy." All this scripture stuff, but that was my life. And it does ... there's nothing wrong with Christian morality if you can actually have a rationale for the moral behavior. Whereas if you just, the book told me to do this, you're not into it enough. It's too shallow to you to have in depth ... as a matter of fact,
Ray Hill: [00:29:00] I just spent 15 years getting a young man out of prison that I sent to prison. And I had to do that because I had a moral obligation to do that.
Mason Funk: How do you mean you sent him to prison?
Ray Hill: Paul Dusard was a gay bash ... well, I built it. Paul Dusard got killed. And so I made the scene. They didn't call me to the scene because somebody got bashed. He was still alive when I got to the scene,
[00:29:30] but not there. They had transported ... I was called to the scene by Steve Little and Steve's call to me said, "The EMTs won't load him in the ambulance and take him to the Emergency Room. Can you do something about that?" Well, of course. I knew how to manipulate bureaucrats. I said, "Okay, I'll be there." And so I first got on the phone and I called the back channel line at 911 and talked to a supervisor. I have numbers like that.
Ray Hill: [00:30:00] I said, "Got a God-damned situation over there. Somebody's been hurt, stabbed. There's blood. And the EMTs are not picking him up. Meet me there." Of course, by the time I got there he had radioed there and the ambulance picked him up and they didn't take him to an Emergency Room nearby. Nobody was on drive by that night. It was the Fourth of July AM, but early morning Fourth of July, the Emergency Rooms are packed later in the day, but not early in the morning.
Ray Hill: [00:30:30] And so nobody's on drive-by, but they take him to Saint Joseph's Hospital downtown and it takes them 40 minutes to get there. From where this was going on to Saint Joseph's is a seven minute drive in heavy traffic. And at 3 o'clock in the morning, there ain't no traffic. And it takes them 40 minutes to get from that scene ... and all this is ambulance records. I got that documented. So they carry him down and I get there. There's not even a doctor on duty at Saint Joseph's.
Ray Hill: [00:31:00] It's not a Class A emergency work. They carry him down to Bentaga, they triaged him, and had him in treatment in minutes, but the doctor ... he is apparently stabbed at 2 o'clock A.M., they don't take his vital signs until 4:47, according to the record. I don't know any of that, that night, but I get to the scene and there's a homicide detective there.
Ray Hill: [00:31:30] And so I said, "Wait a minute. You don't have any tape." He said, "Aw, this is just an assault. This boy's going to survive. I talked to him before they carried him out of here. He was conversational and lucid." Okay. By 9 o'clock the next morning he was dead. We do have a homicide. And so I go to the police chief and I said, "I want a better detective on this case." I said, "I like Wayman, he's a nice guy, but he can't investigate this case."
Ray Hill: [00:32:00] And so he gives me two guys. Abadondalo, called him Detective Abby because nobody could pronounce his Greek name, and Vacaras, two Greek bloodhounds who I know for a fact at the time were the best homicide detectives in Houston. Put them on the case. Well, Vacaras called to me and said, "Mr. Hill, this is ... like Wayman said it's same as an unknown case. We ain't going to solve it." And I said, "That's bullshit.
Ray Hill: [00:32:30] Keep your handcuffs handy because I'm going to solve this case." And I talked bad about the cops frequently. If you can't handle it, I can handle it. And so I put ... went to coordination. I got warm bodies. We blocked the intersection of Westheimer and Montrose at exactly 10 o'clock that Friday evening. So we were live from the scene,
Ray Hill: [00:33:00] first lead story on all three network stations and all the other medias there. We moved the story from a column in the back pages of the Chronicle to the front page. I keep it at that level for two weeks, including having Dave Koppel down here to cover it. Including having CBS Evening News send a film crew from New York, not via the local folks.
Ray Hill: [00:33:30] Sent a producer and a film crew from New York down here and that was amazing because they said, "Well, what are we shooting?" See, they were coming down here on my word alone and I said, "Well, let's set up here in front of this bar." and we've got a wide sidewalk and I cleared it with the bar owner and we're just going to shoot traffic back and forth and we'll have somebody come up and explain. So as he's setting the camera up and balancing it, getting it right,
Ray Hill: [00:34:00] we hear some commotion in the next block. And we look down there and an old rusty clapped out Plymouth has run across the sidewalk and here comes a straggly haired blonde running down the street towards us with a plain clothes officer holding up a badge running right behind him. He runs down and slips and falls right in front of the camera. So the camera's doing this number watching him come, come, come and then down there he is. And the cop is on top of him and he looks over and says, "I didn't know you all were cops. I thought you were one of them damn queers."
Ray Hill: [00:34:30] And the producer said, "Did you set this up?" And I said, "No, but you can go home early." Two weeks later a student at the University of Houston walks up to an openly gay professor and says, "Dr. Rhinehart, I know one of the guys that killed that gay banker." Now we have a name. And he's in Manhattan with his grandmother until the heat blows over.
Ray Hill: [00:35:00] So I tell Vacaras, you gotta go get him. And Vacaras, "Oh, that's not a way we extradite people anymore." And I said, "You are going to get him." "Why?" I said, "Because I want the names of who he was with that night." "Well, what about his Fifth Amendment rights?" I said, "Don't ask him if he did anything. Ask him who he was with. Do I have to teach you how to be a cop? Didn't you go through the Academy?" And so Vacaras went and got him and when he landed we had nine more names.
Ray Hill: [00:35:30] That became Woodlands Ten. See the packaging. Woodlands Ten Gay Bash Homicide, Spoiled Rich Kid come down here to harass and kill queers. The image was complete. Some of the boys got money. Some of them got more money than sense because they hired the wrong lawyers. And there were no trials. All those ... the District Attorney who I got assigned to the case,
Ray Hill: [00:36:00] Mike Anderson was the best prosecutor Johnny Holmes had at the time. And Johnny Holmes ... I said, "I want an aggressive prosecutor on this case." And with the judge, known him since he was a kid. So I'm in the cat bird's seat. This is going my way. Guess what? Seven of the 10 go to prison. And I'm sitting there doing the prison show
Ray Hill: [00:36:30] and I said, "Well, who's working on the hate part?" This is not characterized as a hate crime. Who's working on that? I mean, you send people to prison for racist stuff. They become more racist. You send people to prison for misogynistic stuff. They become more misogynistic. You send people for homophobic stuff. They become more homophobic. They're likely to be made heroes in their circle. Well, whose job is it to work on the hate stuff?
Ray Hill: [00:37:00] Well, I decided well why isn't that my job? And so I go on the air and I say I want this guy John [Byce] to write me. And so John is approached by a friend of his that listened to my show where he lived and he said, "A friend of ours wants you to write him." "Who's that?" "Ray Hill." He said, "That son of a bitch is the guy that sent me to prison. Why the hell would I want to write him? No, this ain't gonna work."
Ray Hill: [00:37:30] But they stayed on him and finally he relented and I got the Dear. Mr. Hill, What the hell do you want? Letter. And I kept it. Like I keep all of my letters. And I write him back and I said, "Well, son, you got 45 years. You're now 20 years old. For a crime you committed when you were 17.
Ray Hill: [00:38:00] And that's a long time. I thought you might want to know how to do that time. I've had big numbers. Long sentence. I know how to do time. And somebody's got to help your family through all this. You're not there to help them, but I can." And I said, "I'm just here to help you do the best with a bad situation." And he kept that letter.
Ray Hill: [00:38:30] So when the documentary crew got down here to do the footage, there's a lot of handwriting on screen of that exchange of letters. John and I became friends. I visited him several times as media, because I got press passes and I got the show and me and Fitzgerald, the press director at the time, got along well. And it wasn't me and John. It was me and Fitzgerald and John. I mean, I never had a personal meeting with John.
Ray Hill: [00:39:00] I mean, Fitzgerald was always there because he was fascinated by the way I treat his beat and I said, you don't have to translate it to me. I've been to prison. I know how prison works. We talked like convicts and so John enjoyed Fitzgerald. When you visit convicts, you have almost a moral obligation. I don't care whether you like them or them or what they did at all.
Ray Hill: [00:39:30] Laughter is the great salve. And so tell jokes and not like television jokesters tell jokes, but put a humorous twist on things. And so me and John and Fitzgerald, all the pictures of us, we're laughing, and so John and I become friends and get to know him. I had a hint that I was wrong with the gay bash characterization
Ray Hill: [00:40:00] because this guy that had gone to New York, Derek Antari, he violated his parole. And while he was in Harris County jail, his lawyers who are like the DeGarrons, the best lawyers in town, hired me to teach him how to do his prison time. And so I went down to teach Derek
Ray Hill: [00:40:30] how to do time. That's what I do is I teach people how to do time as a service. I charge for that. I do everything else for free, but if I'm going to teach a high roller to go to prison, they're going to pay me. When did I teach Derek? And while we're going through how to survive prison time I'm studying his face and I'm looking for that homophobia. I'm looking for that discomfort. I'm looking for signs
Ray Hill: [00:41:00] and it wasn't there. So I said, "Well, he's just one of 10. Maybe it was among the others." Well, I would ultimately know all of the others. There came a time when the Federal government passed a law mandating people to teach convicts what they needed to know about HIV prevention
Ray Hill: [00:41:30] and AIDS and so Texas got the same mandate everybody else got. And when Texas prison, where I'm well known by now, and tell them, "Look, you're not going to spend any money on this. Neither is UTMB who has the healthcare contract. You all ain't going to spend your money on this, but I want to make this happen, but you've got to change the paradigm. I'm going to go in and teach convicts to teach other convicts and you've got to allow convicts to have that kind of responsibility." "
Ray Hill: [00:42:00] Oh no, I can't do that." "Yeah, you can. Your only alternative is to spend money. You ain't got money in your budget, so that's what you're going to do." And they bought it. My first trainers in prison. I went in with the AIDS Foundation Houston to train them with the guys that I sent to prison for the DuSard killing.
Mason Funk: So there's like a-
Ray Hill: There's enough irony in this story to rust.
Mason Funk: [00:42:30] I'm trying to wrap my mind all around it. First of all, take a minute and just tell us what ... when you say your prison show, what is the show you're referring to as your prison show?
Ray Hill: It is one of the most famous local radio shows in the world.
Mason Funk: Start fresh because I was talking-
Ray Hill: Okay, after I get out of prison I'm absolutely convinced that I'm going to be nobody for the rest of my life. I get out in 1975.
Ray Hill: [00:43:00] I go to San Antonio to a Texas Gay Task Force Conference and there's my old friend Morris Kite. And I don't know Morris from gay activism. I know Morris from anti-war activism. There's a guy from Los Angeles. He's the old man laws. He's kind of the Ray Hill of Los Angeles. So I ran into Morris over there and I say, "Morris, I have Alinsky training, Saul Alinsky training. I've got all this stuff, but look I just got out of prison. I got no credibility. I've got no traction.
Ray Hill: [00:43:30] I need somebody to work behind. I need to be the producer to an activist person in Houston, Texas." And Morris said, "I have somebody in mind." And he carried one of those little spiral notebook pads that you can put in your shirt pocket. Those little ones? [inaudible] had a stubby pencil. And he handed me the stubby pencil and said, "Write down your name and telephone number." So I wrote down my name and telephone number
Ray Hill: [00:44:00] and I handed it back to him and he tore that off and handed it back to me and said, "Write it down again. So I can have a copy of it." So I wrote it down again and I handed him his notebook back and he handed me back this piece of paper I gave him and said, "When you get to Houston, get in touch with this guy." With my own telephone number on it. This is the man we need to take over in Houston. So I did. Just came back, called a news conference, it was Pride Week, to announce that this is the last quiet Pride Week you're going to see in Houston, Texas. We thought you wanted to relax and enjoy it
Ray Hill: [00:44:30] because in the future, queers are going to be on the streets. And we also announced the founding of Houston Gay and Lesbian Transgender, what it's called now was at that time Houston Gay Political Caucus and Houston GLBT Political Caucus had its most successful year in its history in 2016.
Mason Funk: But there was also a place where Anita Bryant came into the picture.
Ray Hill: Well, that was in '77. This was '75. Oh God. The other thing I did in '75-
Mason Funk: [00:45:00] Hold on.
Ray Hill: The other thing I did in '75 is I came to this radio station-
Mason Funk: Say what radio station-
Ray Hill: KPFT.
Mason Funk: Start over.
Ray Hill: Pacifica Radio Station, Houston, KPFT, a station that I had co-founded before I went to prison. Came back here and started doing the gay show. I was on the air in a week after I got out of prison.
Mason Funk: You were doing the gay show?
Ray Hill: Wilde and Stein, named after Oscar Wilde and Gertrude Stein.
Mason Funk: Tell us about that.
Ray Hill: [00:45:30] Well, I'm a radio guy. Just look at this face and you can see I need to be a radio guy. I need to be in the studio, kind of like this one, without cameras and I can really do great media as long as you don't have to watch me. So I came back to this radio station and it was in turmoil. We live in turmoil. And so I convinced them to put me on the air with air time. One hour a week talking about gay, lesbian,
Ray Hill: [00:46:00] transgender, social, political issues. What I had in mind was, become a combination of Oscar Wilde and Gertrude Stein and build community with radio. You can do that because of the way radio works. And so I started that. So while my friends were going to meetings with 15 or 20 people every two weeks or once a month, I'm reaching thousands every week over the air waves.
Ray Hill: [00:46:30] They're all in their closets. They're all scared. I'm not doing much about their self-oppressive guilt and shame, but I am role modeling not being in their closets. The guy that talks about being gay and I open the phones. You want to call and straighten my ass out, come on down. I can't lose an argument. I got the buttons and the switches. So I'm always going to get the last word, sucker. So I play the radio for all that it's worth and that starts building toward a community.
Mason Funk: [00:47:00] Sorry, interrupting. Spell it out for us how and why radio builds community like nothing else.
Ray Hill: Well, because-
Mason Funk: In a short answer.
Ray Hill: I don't care how many people you've got there in the audience. You're talking to one person. Radio audiences come like dead men. One to a box.
Ray Hill: [00:47:30] So you can get down close and personal with every sentence. I don't care whether they got headphones or whether they're in a crowd of people. They may be the only person in that big crowd of people listening and what you say is happening inside the middle of their head because you're bringing it in through two ears if they're lucky enough to have two ears. And that is, according to Marshall McCluen, the warmest form of media and the most powerful form of media.
Ray Hill: [00:48:00] And what you say on the radio, they're only getting 20% from you. The other 80% comes from their imagination and their experience, their memories that you blend with their actual lives. And so I mean, I can go to the supermarket and people who wouldn't recognize me at all hear my voice
Ray Hill: [00:48:30] and they respond and universally they smile. That's the kind of radio I do. I know what I'm doing ... I know more about what I'm doing in radio than Rush Limbaugh will ever know about what he's doing in radio because I understand the theory behind it. I learned from the master himself.
Mason Funk: Okay, so go back to Wilde and Stein.
Ray Hill: So Wilde and Stein was on the air for about five years. And then KPFT needed a manager. It's a tough job.
Ray Hill: [00:49:00] You not only have to raise money to support a radio station, you have to raise money to pay your own salary. And the manager we had at the time was Judy. And so I came in the station one morning to check my mail. I get a lot of mail and somebody said, "Have you seen Judy?" And I said, "No, I haven't seen her in a while." And they said, "Well, we got to checking and nobody's seen Judy for a couple of weeks." That gives you some idea how important managers are at KPFT.
Ray Hill: [00:49:30] She's been gone for two weeks and I said, "Well, is her office locked?" "Yeah." And since I'm the only burglar on staff, I have to break in there to see if she's not dead. She's no spring chicken. So I break in there and no, she's not dead, but she did leave a note addressed to the station and she said, "This is the worst damn job I've ever had in my life. You prima donna programmers think that you run this station
Ray Hill: [00:50:00] and I don't and blah, blah, blah. And I'm outta here." And it was dated two weeks before. So we cast lots and I lost and they decided to make me manager. We're all a bunch of volunteers. So I became manager and then Laurie said, "No, you can't do that. Stop. This cannot happen." "Why?" "Well, the FCC rule number, and they gave the number and the citation, says that managers of licensed broadcast facilities under the FCC have to be persons of good moral character."
Ray Hill: [00:50:30] And I said, "What exactly does that mean?" "Well, we don't know, but certainly no ex-convicts and no perverts." I said, "Notify the FCC that we're not in compliance." "Why would we do that?" "Well, I think we're obliged to tell them when we're violating a rule. It keeps somebody else from telling them, and we're getting fined for it if we just belly up and say we're not in compliance. What are you going to do about it?" So we get a letter back from the FCC, Well, I'll just do it. They say, "Well, we'll put it on the agenda."
Ray Hill: [00:51:00] Well, the agenda the next meeting meets quarterly. So the next meeting of the FCC is like 90 days away. And so they put it on the agenda. Would you like to come make a presentation. Laurie said, "Now, I've got to go make a presentation." I said, "No, you don't. That's an invitation, not an order. Just say thank you very much. We will not be-" "Well, we will be there because we represent-" I said, "Yeah, but not on this matter." So they just cooled it like a convict
Ray Hill: [00:51:30] law library would do. Dumped the work on the other side and see how they handle it. So then after the FCC meets, we get another letter saying the matter has been referred to our legal committee to be considered at the next meeting. Well, now I've got six months of being manager of the radio station. In the meantime, KPFT is exempted from the rule.
Ray Hill: [00:52:00] That's halfway there. So three months later, they have another meeting and their legal team said blacks legal dictionary does not have a specific definition for good moral character therefore we suggest you abandon the rule and I became the first openly gay, openly ex-convict to manage an FCC facility in the United States laying the way for all the rest of the fools that have gotten those jobs since.
Mason Funk: [00:52:30] Okay, that's awesome.
Mason Funk: [crosstalk] needs to know how to work the system, I'm going to come to you.
Ray Hill: It's convict think.
Mason Funk: We're going to get back to that, but I want to get to ... because there's some really important historical events including the coming of Anita Bryant to Houston.
Ray Hill: Oh yeah, big deal.
Mason Funk: So tell us about that.
Ray Hill: Well-
Mason Funk: Give us the year and set it up.
Ray Hill: Well, Anita Bryant at that time was-
Mason Funk: What time are you talking about?
Ray Hill: We're talking about the early 70s.
Mason Funk: Start over. Anita Bryant-
Ray Hill: [00:53:00] Anita Bryant from about '73 forward, Dade County, Florida passed a non-discrimination ordinance protecting employment for gay men and lesbians and Anita Bryant formed an organization to call a referendum on that ordinance called Save Our Children, was the name of the organization. And that immediately caught ...
Ray Hill: [00:53:30] because the number one passing an ordinance to protect employment rights of gay people was a big deal in the early 70s. That became a national story and so everybody in the country knew who Anita Bryant was. And they knew that she was against queers and that she was organizing and so she decided that she could franchise Save Our Children and she could travel around the country and give speeches and sing songs. Her biggest song was Battle Hymn of the Republic.
Ray Hill: [00:54:00] Her most telling songs was Paper Roses, get that and read the lyrics of it. It's about men who have been dishonest with her and all she's got out of their relationship was paper roses. And that's true of her life. I studied her. I wrote a play called Whatever Happened to Anita Bryant? In which I studied her life. In my play she comes across simply as a character. But at the time, she is the devil incarnate to gay people.
Ray Hill: [00:54:30] She is a threat to our burgeoning struggle. We're a long way from being equal in those days, but she is a threat to the promise of all of that. So Anita Bryant is something that affects people personally. And I'm watching this play out in the media and I'm analyzing how this is playing out in the media and I'm applying it to my crowd here in Houston. And then all of a sudden an old lesbian columnist in the Houston Post writes a column that says guess
Ray Hill: [00:55:00] whose coming to dinner and it's Anita Bryant is coming to Houston, Texas and she's going to be performing for the State Bar Association Convention in a downtown hotel. Well, everywhere else she has gone, including San Francisco and Orlando, because she's based in Southern Florida, she's a spokesperson for the Florida Orange Juice Association,
Ray Hill: [00:55:30] which is a side gig she's getting. A day without orange juice is like a day without sunshine. She is this iconic enemy. She's a performer. She's doing what performers do with their careers, but she's coming to Houston. And I am the only advocate of onto the streets and raising hell action in Houston. Everybody else is quasi-Republican.
Ray Hill: [00:56:00] Let's go to the cocktail party so we can convince ourselves how good we are and I am let's get out in the streets and scream and yell. So I get together the leadership for the gay lesbian community. There's not much transgender going on in 1977. It's beginning to be a movement, but it hadn't yet grown. And so we get together and we talk about what to do for Anita coming into town.
Ray Hill: [00:56:30] I compromised on everything except the actual event itself. I said, "If I could get them on the streets, and we have a good showing, it would change Houston from a pacifist town to an activist town." This was my opportunity. I can't screw this up. I gotta get this right. So when they said, "Well, we want to carry a sign that says this is a peaceful demonstration." Of course, we didn't carry signs.
Ray Hill: [00:57:00] We've got to perform the way the cops tell us. All right, let me negotiate that. I'm a convict. They're cops. We've got something going. Everyone knows about convicts and cops, they're brothers under the skin. I go meet with Pappy Bond. I've known him for years.
Mason Funk: Who's that?
Ray Hill: Pappy Bond is ... at that time he was a Captain of the Houston Police Department. He would later become police chief. And he would later have a little help and commit suicide as an option.
Ray Hill: [00:57:30] He was a friend of mine. I knew him well. And so I called Pappy, and I said, "Pappy," "Yeah, I heard you all were going to have this demonstrations and how many people you expect at demonstration?" I said, "About 500." He went to laughing. He said, "Houston ain't a demonstrating town. You know, I've been through with Civil Rights and Women's rights and abortion and anti-war and 50- 60 people are about all anybody can draw in Houston, Texas."
Ray Hill: [00:58:00] And I said, "No, Pappy, you better count on a few more." He said, "All right. I'll work with you Raymond." And so we were going to have to march from a gay bar named Depository Two. Depository One was a bank. So Depository kind of made sense. Depository Two was a funeral home, which still kind of fit and so they had a big parking lot and so we could rally in that parking lot and then we could march downtown. And that's at the corner of McGowan and Smith Street
Ray Hill: [00:58:30] and I asked Pappy, "Give me Louisiana Street since we're going to have to walk on the sidewalks, and we're going to have to stop at the stoplights. It's easier for me to manage 500 people plus on four sidewalks than two." "Yeah, we can do that. Yeah, we can do that. I got personnel for that." You can't get a parade permit downtown after dark at that time. Those laws have changed primarily for Gay Pride Week.
Ray Hill: [00:59:00] But at that time we didn't have any political power. So I get on the scene where the march is going to begin about an hour early. When you're the star you've got to be there to set up. Seems familiar sound. And so I got down there early and there were already 200 people there. I said, "500, we're going to have more." We had 12, 000. 12,000. Houston had never seen a demonstration
Ray Hill: [00:59:30] that large and they were angry. Their hopes and their dreams and aspirations were being threatened by this woman. And if you go up Smith Street, that puts you behind the Hyatt Regency Hotel and Pappy didn't think, but he gave me the street in front of Hyatt Regency Hotel. When they got down to the Hyatt Regency Hotel, some were supposed to go in front. Some were supposed to go in ... they started going around and making all kinds of noise. The lawyers can't hear
Ray Hill: [01:00:00] the Battle Hymn of the Republic inside the building. A few lawyers walked out, but nobody noticed because our crowd was so big. There was a counter demonstration of about 200 people at City Hall. When they saw us flood down two streets at them, they hightailed it and ran.
Mason Funk: Who were these people? This 12,000 people.
Ray Hill: 12,000 people came out ... well, what actually draws crowds is crowds. Over half of those people drove by to see if there was going to be a crowd.
Ray Hill: [01:00:30] And the minute they saw there was going to be a crowd, they joined it, because there's safety in numbers. We're talking about gay people who were afraid and ashamed and guilt ridden. We're talking about people who didn't want to be seen in public as gay people, but all of a sudden they weren't alone. All of a sudden there was this throng of people.
Ray Hill: [01:01:00] And after they started up on the sidewalks and had gone about three blocks, a young officer; he was cute, pants were a little tight. I noticed that. And that's a choice. And his walkie talkie went crackling and said, "Mr. Hill, Captain Bond wants to talk to you." And I said, "Yeah, Pappy, what do you want?" And he said, "Take the God damned street." And I said, "Well, Pappy, I got two streets. I got Smith." "Take both of the mothers." So the officer said, "Well, I'll radio the officers." I said, "My people are not going to beat your officers. They don't trust your officers."
Ray Hill: [01:01:30] I turned to my marshals and if you're going to be coordinator of this event and you're in charge of parade marshals, you want to get the nelliest little queens you can find and the butchest little dikes you can find because they don't need to wear into a gay gala, everybody knows who they are and can trust who they are by their gait and the cast. And I said, "Kids go up ... scamper up there and tell them to take the streets." Well, we'd gone three blocks and all of a sudden we own turf we had not owned when the march began.
Ray Hill: [01:02:00] Do you have any idea what that does to your crowd? And so by the time they got to the Hyatt Regency Hotel they were venting all that anger. And then they went around the corner to the library plaza, between the old library and the new library and I get up on that rise and I'm talking into a wedge on the new library. So sound goes like this.
Ray Hill: [01:02:30] And I give the best three minute speech of my life. And then I step off the stage and there is John Matthews, who's a news director of KAUM with a microphone, and he hands it to me and he says, "Ray, ABC Radio, National hook up, live." They can't edit this. This is it. This is my shining moment. I wish you could be here today and see all these wonderful people.
Ray Hill: [01:03:00] They dressed for a demonstration, but if they'd worn the clothes they wore to work this morning, you would know who was doctors and who was lawyers and who was school teachers and people just like you. And all they want is the same freedoms and equality that you enjoy. Take it for granted, but they can't have it because of orange juice. They make good orange juice in Texas. They have good orange juice in New Mexico, Arizona,
Ray Hill: [01:03:30] California may have sweeter orange juice than anywhere else, but if you respect these people's right to be free and equal, read the label and don't drink another drop of Florida orange juice. Hand him the microphone. That went over the ABC Radio Network Live. About 120 stations in the country simultaneous live, real time, prime time.
Ray Hill: [01:04:00] About three weeks later I'm going up Wall Drive here in Houston and there is the Texan Juice Company over on my right, just past the bayou. And there are three stainless steel tank trucks with Florida license tags lined up waiting to get in. In three weeks we'd affected orange juice production in Florida that they had to ship it over here to sell it as Texas orange juice
Ray Hill: [01:04:30] because it wasn't selling as Florida. And I said, "Oh my God, I've gotta get a news crew out here and some cameras," and then I remembered something I learned from Frankie. She said "Butch Wayne, when you win, win very generously." So I went on with my day.
Mason Funk: What kind of schedule are we at in terms of getting to the Montrose Center? Can you pause for a second?
Mason Funk: Some key things like that. Like what was your life like? Like, what was your life, you know, you've got great stories about all the hero-
Ray Hill: And I've known ... in my day I have known the greatest GLBT activists on the planet-[crosstalk]
Mason Funk: And frankly, I'm a little-bit less interested in them because this is my only chance to sit down with you, but so-
Amy Bench: We're good.
Mason Funk: We're good? Okay.
Amy Bench: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Mason Funk: So you just said the problem with all this is you don't know what my life was like during these years.
Ray Hill: [01:05:30] Sure.
Mason Funk: So tell me what it was like.
Ray Hill: Below the poverty ... except when I was preaching and stealing, I lived below the poverty line all of my life. And yet I was able to do some miraculous stuff by ignoring all that and plowing reliably ahead. Keep your eyes on the prize. You don't keep your eyes on what you need and yes,
Ray Hill: [01:06:00] yes I have depended on like Blanche Dubois. Yes, I've depended like Blanche Dubois on the kindness of strangers. So sometimes people feed me and I'm not ashamed to ask for it. I live on Social Security Disability, food stamps. I get rent subsidy. So I live on less than $800 a month
Ray Hill: [01:06:30] and I live quite well. Better than most. Of course, my car was given to me. People, when it comes time to buy insurance for it, will pitch in and help. I've learned how to panhandle on the internet. I have a running GoFundMe account and I'll do something and money will just appear. And I can apply it to like a light bill. My biggest bill is my internet connection Comcast bill.
Mason Funk: [01:07:00] So let's go back to the years we were talking about, because the question was what was your life like-
Ray Hill: Then?
Mason Funk: Yeah, [crosstalk]
Ray Hill: Well, in the first place then I didn't have ... during the period of time, when I was stealing ... you know, stealing is great work.
Mason Funk: But I'm less interested in the time when you were stealing because frankly, I'm more interested in the time when you were being an activist.
Ray Hill: Well, it was the same time.
Ray Hill: I could not afford to have been an activist in those days without having a side ... and they were so busy watching me for my politics
Ray Hill: [01:07:30] that they had no idea how I made a living. They thought the Russians were giving me money. It was like modern day Trump. The money comes from Russia, so all we need to do is catch him and it's over, but actually the money was coming from my work as a burglar because antiques were ... I stole stuff that queers know about; antiques, art, jewels, electronics such as they were in the 60s. But those things are high dollar items. So if you don't go in there and pick and choose a few things for your living room,
Ray Hill: [01:08:00] you go in there and you empty the warehouse. Or you empty the store. Then you move it somewhere and you retail it and I don't know anything about the resale. So I hired people to do that, but if I changed the price tag on something I stole, it usually increased the price because I had a better market. I had an antique store in a place called Madison, Tennessee, which is between Nashville and the Kentucky border.
Ray Hill: [01:08:30] And who lives there except people who come from hungry and hunger like nothing and became stars in the music business and they want to buy family heritage. So antiques, they fill their house with the illusion of family heritage. So I took advantage of their fraud to make money in my fraud. And I charged top dollar for that. I made a lot of money.
Ray Hill: [01:09:00] I remember cursing having to move brown paper sacks full of large bills around in my closet to find my shoes.
Mason Funk: Did you ... after you got arrested on that crime spree in California and brought back, did you go straight at that point? I mean, in terms of the law?
Ray Hill: No. I never gave up a life of crime. I just studied crime. I mean, it was an academic project. What crimes get solved? Well, burglaries. They only solve about 3% of burglaries done nationally.
Ray Hill: [01:09:30] Commercial burglaries, 0-3%. What's the recovery? How many times do they get their stuff back from solving a burglary? 0% because the insurance has already paid for it. And to get their stuff back complicates their lives. So they don't want their stuff back. They'd rather take the insurance checks and go on with their life. And so I said, this is the specific business to ... commercial burglaries is a business. I went into it.
Ray Hill: [01:10:00] And I built a crew in Houston of four people, plus myself, five people. My companion at the time and a dude who would later become a physician, and Mickey Demerrel; who was a wonderful hairdresser dealing with old women who like kinky blue and pink hair at the time. It was the fashion. And I loved Mickey's customers. And Larry Russell. Little redneck from Pasadena, Texas.
Ray Hill: [01:10:30] Larry could lift twice his weight in marble if his adrenaline was right. I mean, I had a crew, and I used them in my activism. It was the anti-war activism at that time. I was traveling around the country fighting the Vietnam War. The early days I gave my money up. But I never bifurcated that, because I'd go to an anti-war conference and slip in a gay rights plank.
Ray Hill: [01:11:00] Go to a gay conference and slip in an anti-war plank. It melds together at that time. But at that time, plus the fact then and shortly after my ancestry kicked in. My ancestors who were farmers and the first Hill male that did not push a mule through a field for a living. And they had worthless East Texas land, but fortunately under that worthless East Texas land were oil.
Ray Hill: [01:11:30] And so through the 70s, even while I was in prison, I was making money off from oil royalties. A lot of money.
Mason Funk: So at any point did you "give up a life of crime"?
Ray Hill: Yeah, after I got out of prison the second time. I decided I'm too old for this crap. Not because ... well, see they rewarded me for being a teenage evangelist. That's a pretty good paying job too. I mean, when I was 16 years old I bought a brand new Studebaker, cash, off the show room floor.
Ray Hill: [01:12:00] I could have bought a Ford for half that, but I wanted a good car. And so made good money in that field and then became a burglar and made good money. So I was used to making a lot of money and nobody ever said anything about restitution. They never took my money away from me. I went to prison and had money in the bank.
Mason Funk: Before ... this is just a jump in topic, but the prison show-
Ray Hill: [01:12:30] The prison show-
Mason Funk: What is the prison show? You've got a ... there's a-[crosstalk]
Ray Hill: Well,
Mason Funk: Called theprisonshow.com
Ray Hill: While I was doing time, I was looking around and here's a community of people. They didn't choose to be there, most of them. And the thing that impressed me most is it was only one community. It wasn't a community of the keepers looking over a community of the kept. It was one community there. And they don't have media.
Ray Hill: [01:13:00] And the easiest way for that community to get media is on the radio, but I had to wait until I became general manager at KPFT and wake up one morning with the understanding that I could do anything I wanted to as long as it was radio. And so I gave myself an hour time to do the prison show. Now what I thought about doing was
Ray Hill: [01:13:30] if somebody in your family got arrested, you don't know what to do. You're on the job training with that. You say they're in jail, so I've got to go down and get them out. So you run down, and you meet bail bondsmen. And they're able to figure out exactly how much resources you can put your hands on. And that's about what it costs to get them out of jail, and then you wake up the next morning and now that you're out of jail, in Texas, get a court appointed lawyer,
Ray Hill: [01:14:00] you're going to have to hire a lawyer, but the bail bondsmen has not only got your money, but they've also got a lien on your house, maybe your car title. So you've wasted this when you really needed that. So the first thing you do when somebody goes to jail. You get a lawyer. And he's able to reduce the bond. And pay for himself that way. See what I mean? But people don't know that.
Ray Hill: [01:14:30] So something happens that's shocking. They ... I got a call just night before last. "Oh my God, my friend's in prison and I gotta go down and post $645." Wait. Stop, stop, stop. Don't do anything until after he sees the judge in the morning. Well, the guy went to see the judge, and the judge said, "You've got a bunch of warrants and I'm going to reset them. Now you get your butt out of here and get you a lawyer and fight this.
Ray Hill: [01:15:00] I'll give you six weeks, but if you need more time come back." Didn't spend a dime. Didn't get out any sooner than he would have if you went down and dumped that money on him. But people don't know that. So I was going to do that show. I'm going to educate the general unwatched out there. I never got that audience. The audience I got were convicts. "Oh, that's old Hill. I did time with him on the Ramsey. Yeah, listen. Call your momma.
Ray Hill: [01:15:30] Yeah, have her listen to prison show. It sounds like we sound down around the dominoes table." And that's with a cast. My mindset was convicts at the dominoes table in a cell block talking to other convicts. It was-[crosstalk]
Mason Funk: Do you have convicts on the show?
Ray Hill: No. Well, ex-convicts.
Mason Funk: Tell us about the-[crosstalk]
Ray Hill: Ex-convicts. Now everybody on the show ... I say I retired five years ago. Everybody on the show now is some kind of ex- convict that came to the show because of my voice,
Ray Hill: [01:16:00] but the producer and the host and all of that, everybody's done time. And I think you need to keep it that way. Of course, it's their show now. I've surrendered. I gave in. Here's the keys. It's your show. I'm gone. You gotta do it that way. You've got to walk away from it and not come back. And so ... but I immediately ... I got a sidekick right away. There was this woman, Shan Donaldson. Her Tennessee hill
Ray Hill: [01:16:30] country accent was so thick if you were listening on the radio, you couldn't tell whether she was black or white. Perfect for my purposes. So it's the Ray Hill/Shan Donaldson show for several years. And she was my sidekick. And I was going in to do the radio show one evening. I'm like two minutes till airtime. Shan says,
Ray Hill: [01:17:00] "Ray, I think I'll take this call." And I said, "Darling, fixing to go on the air. Tell them I'll call them when I get off." She said, "No, no, this is more important. You've got to take it." So I answered, annoyed. Answered the telephone. And what I heard was weather sounds. It was rain. It was freeway sound. Freeway sounds and then this frail voice. "Mr. Hill I was on the way to see my son.
Ray Hill: [01:17:30] I haven't visited him for two or three years and we finally got enough together for me to go visit him on the Wynn Unit, but we've had an accident. Everybody's all right, but we're not going to make it. And he listens to your show. Would you tell him that I love him." I said, "Oh Jesus Christ." I do good radio. I can't do radio this good. So I said, "Ma'am" and then another voice came on. "Would you deposit 35 cents to continue this pay phone call?"
Ray Hill: [01:18:00] I want that voice too. So I said, "Operator, operator, can you reverse the charges? Can you charge me?" "Oh yeah, I can do that." I said, "We'll accept the charges." "Are you authorized to do that." "I'm authorized to do that." Manager. And so I said, but let us know when three minutes are up because I wanted her back. So I go on the air,
Ray Hill: [01:18:30] and I connect the phone, and I said, "Ma'am, this is Ray. Now we're on the air and your son can hear you." "Well, I want you to tell him-" I said, "No ma'am, you tell him." And so she started talking to her son explaining what was happening. And then the operator came in. "Do you wish to continue this call?" I said, "Yes ma'am, thank you very much." I got all that. In two minutes.
Ray Hill: [01:19:00] I won every award you can get in public radio for that two minute show. And the next week when I came in, the lines were already blinking. I didn't have a show left. Family's calling. Texas didn't have telephone access for inmates at the time. So if your momma wanted to talk to you on the radio, she'd call the radio station and put her on the air. Get to know these people. Get to talking about these people with their lives.
Ray Hill: [01:19:30] And the prison show is more than just a prison show. It's more than just radio. It's human experience. And it got richer and richer and richer. If you want to hear about it, go to hourglasses website. This American Life. Look up lock up. It is the most frequently recalled show on Irises.
Ray Hill: [01:20:00] Wonderful collection. He'd be the wizard. So now you got Ray Hill; radio guy, Hourglass; a radio guy, talking about doing radio on the radio. You don't get more incestuous than that.
Mason Funk: Excellent. I understand.
Ray Hill: Yeah, you can feel it.
Mason Funk: I can feel it.
Ray Hill: Like radio.
Mason Funk: Yeah. We'll have to talk Hourglass later on.
Ray Hill: He was an inspiration to all of us.
Ray Hill: [01:20:30] If you're in radio, your life has been affected by Hourglass.
Mason Funk: Yeah, just recently I had an amazing experience-
Ray Hill: And by Garrison Keillor.
Mason Funk: Right. I'm going to just have a quick look here because you mentioned a couple of things in your questionnaire as kind of like important things to cover, but I want to talk about the Houston Police Department back in the day.
Ray Hill: Oh it was great.
Mason Funk: Tell me about that.
Mason Funk: And mention the Houston Police Department.
Ray Hill: [01:21:00] Okay, the Houston Police Department did not raid gay bars because there was anything illegal going on. They raided gay bars because they had a passive crowd that they could come in and bully around and get their jollies off of being police officers. That's what that was all about. It was never about lawlessness. It was always at the most inconvenient times. As a matter of fact, they raided Mary's Lounge. Mary's is kind of the sleaziest gay bar in Texas and an iconic place
Ray Hill: [01:21:30] where gay people could gather to talk as opposed to try to talk over loud music or darkness and all that. It was a neighborhood bar. And they raided Mary's every year before Pride Week. And so I came up with the idea of let's put the annual raid on Mary's bar before Pride Week on the calendar, and see if we can convince them to raid then.
Ray Hill: [01:22:00] So that the only people in the bar are people who are willing to get arrested for the Mary's raid. And so we just put it on the calendar. It became a point of celebration. It took all the fun out of it for the cops, but they accommodated us for a couple of years. And on my first Federal case against police behavior was, I went to the trial of the people arrested at the raid on Mary's. Jim Coon was the lawyer.
Ray Hill: [01:22:30] The judge up there was pretending to be asleep. Judges sleep in trials all the time, but they usually don't want you to know that. Judge Wilton was laid up there like a piece of ham pretending to be asleep. The jury was in the box. The prosecutor was over here and there were two cops in the front row who were mimicking the defense witnesses as they came in. Defense would call a witness, and they'd do the limp wrist thing,
Ray Hill: [01:23:00] and they were making fun of them in full view of the jury, and the judge could have seen it, but he was pretending to be asleep at the time. So I'm manager of KPFT, I've got my press pass on my neck down my tee-shirt. That's my story. The story is not what I have [inaudible]. The story is these cops. So I went over and looked at them. And I got the ... I knew one of them. It was Crow. I didn't know who the other one was. I got his nameplate. And I remember that got out in the hall and Crow followed me
Ray Hill: [01:23:30] and he said, "Raymond." See he knows who I am. "Let me see your driver's license." I said, "Crow, I don't really need a driver's license in the basement of this courthouse." Up against the wall. Get arrested. Failure to identify as a witness. Throw my ass in jail. Judge Tim Alfono, Judge Fad Wilson's asleep apparently. Judge Tim Alfono goes out to lunch and loses his way back here or something. KTRH radio, Ray Hill's been arrested at the basement of the courthouse
Ray Hill: [01:24:00] and so he gets back and gets on the bench and he calls the gentleman. He said, "You got Ray Hill over there?" Judge says, "Yeah, he's standing here right next to me." "Well, bring him over here. I'll cut him loose on his own recognizance. And we'll see what this is about in a couple of weeks." And the jailer said, "Raymond, I can't spare an officer to escort you." So he just opened the door and let me out to go see Sam. So I went over to Sam's court and walked in the back of Sam's court. "I thought you were under arrest." "I am." "Where's your officer?" "I don't have one."
Ray Hill: [01:24:30] Then he started lecturing me about why I needed an officer. And I said, "Judge, I don't have any choice here. I do what they tell me. They told me to come see you. And I'm here. What do you need?" He said, "No, no, you got anything over there?" I said, "Yeah, I got my shoelaces. I got my wallet. I got my belt. And what little money I had." And he said, "Okay. Go back and get it, because I'm cutting you loose." Well then I got the problem of how you get into jail when you're supposed to be in jail, but you're on the outside.
Ray Hill: [01:25:00] See what I mean? This is dilemma time, but I figured that out and I managed to get back to the jail and the jailer laughs and says, "Well, they just called for your discharge." Click my picture going into jail and click, my picture coming out of jail was at one hour and 40 minutes. So we try the case. My failure to identify and Judge Brain says, " I don't believe I need a driver's license in the basement of this court house.
Ray Hill: [01:25:30] I don't know why Mr. Hill should have to have one. I'm dismissing this case." So it goes to Federal court and we sue for going to jail. The police chief of the city of Houston, acting police chief Tommy Williams says, "We gotta know who we're dealing with even if we have to tattoo numbers on." Do you know that Jewish judge was not really impressed with that testimony?
Ray Hill: [01:26:00] And so Judge Connor listened to what he had to say and he said, "I think all we need to do is figure out how we settle up with Mr. Hill here." My lawyer jumped up and said, "$5,000 will be adequate your Honor." I said, "Excuse me, your Honor. Plus lawyers fees." And the judge laughed and granted both. And so as long as I can prove it's bullshit my rate for going to jail for bullshit is $50 a minute,
Ray Hill: [01:26:30] and they have to pay for my lawyers because [inaudible] is exactly that. A Federal court has determined that and I live by it.
Mason Funk: So what was the incident and when did it happen that led to-[crosstalk]
Ray Hill: The Supreme Court case.
Mason Funk: Houston versus Hill.
Ray Hill: I was just finishing up as general manager here at the radio station. I was living about a block away. It was 1982. Valentine's. I retired in January, Valentine's Day is February and I walked out on my front porch,
Ray Hill: [01:27:00] which is now a pizza joint. And two officers stopped a young black man and drug him over in my lawn and started beating him with their flashlight. I said, "Whoa, whoa, wait a minute. This is my yard. I got some say here. And nobody gets ass whipping on the side of the road. There's not any laws that permit that. Anyway, I've been out here long enough that I've seen he's done nothing wrong." "You better get your ass in the house you son of a bitch,
Ray Hill: [01:27:30] or we'll take your ass to jail." "I think that's a good idea mother-" I used a word unbecoming of their relationships with their mothers. They forgot all about Charles. Came beeline for me and Patrick, my companion, who's a recent ex-Patriot from Chile in 1982 is calling them far worse than I did, but its in Spanish, so they don't know that. So Officer Kelly and Officer Holtzcloth,
Ray Hill: [01:28:00] I knew both of their families, arrested me. Threw me in the back of the squad car, and we headed for Beechnut Substation. Now, Beechnut Substation is an isolated place, and it's a place at the time where all the violence against arrestee was happening. It's out in the middle of a prairie, and they find human bones in that prairie. Bones of people whose last known location was inside that substation.
Ray Hill: [01:28:30] And so I was handcuffed, and I tapped on the little window with my head. And I said, "Open up the wallet." They got my wallet open. And they said, "Why?" I said, "You'll find a press pass in there." Press credentials. You can do things to some people that you can't do to others. If I come up missing, there'll be too many questions asked. And if I survive and don't come up missing
Ray Hill: [01:29:00] I've got vehicles to really give you a hard time. And so when I get out to the substation, the Sergeant knows me. He said, "Oh my God, it's celebrity night. Mr. Hill what kind of accommodations?" I said, "I want a room alone, preferably with a telephone." And he said, "Well, I can't do all of that, but I'm going to get close enough." So I spent a long weekend in jail. Got out of jail as soon as I saw a judge. Released me on my own recognizance,
Ray Hill: [01:29:30] but $50 a minute, I was at $100,000 worth of minutes here because those add up pretty quick. And the ... we win the case because Judge Brain is the only judge that could try my case because I knew the rest of them too well. They had to recuse themselves, but Judge Brain tried the case and he screwed up.
Mason Funk: What was the essence of the case?
Ray Hill: [01:30:00] The essence of the case is they said that I interrupted a police officer's performance of his duty. And my position was that I used only words from a distance, and the First Amendment protected my words. So when ... how it actually physically worked and draw ... when we got into trial, and these two officers testified, then they had seven other officers show up to testify the reputation of these two officers for telling the truth and their veracity within the community. So they had been lining up all these cop testimonies against me.
Ray Hill: [01:30:30] And I let all that happen by representing myself. I can get away with more in a courtroom ... my lawyer's here, but I'm representing myself because as a layperson the judge can't say you're not going there. So when we got through listening to all their testimonies, I said, "Your Honor, I'd like to foster a motion to stop trial because the state has not proven their point." And he said, "Well, what's your issue?" And I gave him that First Amendment protected my words kind of thing.
Ray Hill: [01:31:00] It was a words only defense. And that was pretty fancy stuff for a lowly court like this. You need to save that for the appeal and then he said, "So Mr. Hill, I'm going to find you guilty of this offense." I said, "Your Honor, that was a motion to quash." That was not the trial. I have witnesses and evidence to present at the trial if I ever get a chance to present. You already found me guilty. On the record, so he had screwed up the record. So he said,
Ray Hill: [01:31:30] "Well, in that case Mr. Hill, I'm going to find you not guilty." Because he didn't want to ... he couldn't cover up the mistake he had already made. And it had went solely on him. So with that my lawyers and I went over and filed a Federal suit. And we lost in Federal District Court because Judge [Deanda's] son was a Houston police officer, and he was pre-prejudiced, but we appealed it to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and Judge [Ruben] wrote a very fine three judge panel opinion.
Ray Hill: [01:32:00] Then it went from there with just an opinion just on findings of the law. Facts never got presented in this case. It was the law. And so then it went to the C appeal, and it went to full court. And like 15 judges on the court then. And they took a preliminary vote, and I was losing by one vote. Judge Ruben went to Chief Justice Clark who voted against me and said,
Ray Hill: [01:32:30] "You know we're right on Hill." And Judge going, "Yeah, but look at this guy. He's a convict, he's a homosexual, a troublemaker." And Judge Ruben said, "All right, if you'll switch your vote, I'll write all that into the opinion." And he did. That's why my card says Citizen Provocateur. The sentence is Raymond Wayne Hill is a convict, a homosexual, a pesky, contentious troublemaker, a citizen provocateur who is however correct reading the Constitution
Ray Hill: [01:33:00] of the United States is applied to Houston City Ordinance 34.11. And I won that, and it went to Supreme Court. And at the Supreme Court it was eight to one. Kicked ass.
Mason Funk: And what exactly did they rule?
Ray Hill: They ruled- [crosstalk]
Mason Funk: The Supreme Court- [crosstalk]
Ray Hill: They ruled-
Mason Funk: Sorry.
Ray Hill: There's a lot of language in the opinion and in ... you can listen to the oral arguments where it's the Supreme Court. That's all on the internet now. It's not a visual. It's an oral thing, but they spent a lot of time talking about my opprobrious language.
Mason Funk: [01:33:30] I'm going to interrupt you for a second. Start off with the Supreme Court.
Ray Hill: The Supreme Court of the United States heard the case and there's the oral arguments were auto-recorded. And they spent a lot of time talking about Raymond Wayne Hill's opprobrious language. Translation: I called the cops mothers. That's a longer word and so they spent a lot of time talking about that,
Ray Hill: [01:34:00] but the essence is it's a First Amendment case, and it upheld my motion in municipal court and Judge [inaudible] said, "Your Honor, this case should be quashed because I have the First Amendment right to say." And that was the last landmark First Amendment opinion of the Brennan majority court. Brennan would be dead in a few months.
Mason Funk: Tell us again the story of how at the hearing and before the Supreme Court, one of them said something like, "This is an awfully puny-"
Ray Hill: [01:34:30] Oh, no, no. Justice Marshall was on the court at the time. Thurgood Marshall, I mean. Just brilliant, legal minded giant. The guy who crafted Brown versus Board of Education and later went on to the Supreme Court. He's an old man then, and he's leaning back listening to this argument, and my lawyer's is one of the smoothest talker's in the world;
Ray Hill: [01:35:00] Charles, Allan, Wright. All these people are now dead, but Charlie was talking about the case and Judge Marshall leaned forward and said, "Professor, did you just say that this was a Class C Misdemeanor case with a maximum fine of $200?" And Charlie said, "Yes, your Honor. That's essentially what it is. A Class C misdemeanor. [inaudible] and constitutionally any matter over $20 is eligible to bring to the court. If it's under $20,
Ray Hill: [01:35:30] we can't bring it, if it's over $20 we can. And this is 200. And anyway, my client says there's a constitutional issue here and if it's not resolved in this case he promises to be back, and Thurgood Marshall said, "Oh, I understand that." And he went on to the trial. It was an amazing thing, the trial. And the architecture's ...
Ray Hill: [01:36:00] I picked up a hitchhiker on my way to one of the Fifth Circuit hearings, on my way to New Orleans. I picked up a hitchhiker, and it was a cutie guy, but he was kind of scruffy looking. So we went to a resale shop and got him a suit of clothes, and I carried him into the court, and the court spent all afternoon debating my right to call cops mother fuckers and interrupt an arrest. Do you have any idea how impressive that is to a stranger
Ray Hill: [01:36:30] you've just met on the streets a few hours before? We had a good time at the hotel that night.
Amy Bench: Can I grab a drink of water real quick?
Mason Funk: Sure. Coughing break. Oh, here, I see where you are. Is it in there? Oopsie. You're snagged.
Amy Bench: Oh no. I didn't leave it at the coffee shop, did I?
Mason Funk: No, I think you brought it back here.
Ray Hill: I don't see it.
Amy Bench: Oh, because we're not supposed to have drinks in here are we?
Mason Funk: [01:37:00] Oh, that's right.
Ray Hill: That's bullshit.
Mason Funk: We debated that. Here it is.
Ray Hill: I don't know if it's my seniority. I've always ignored that note.
Mason Funk: We came in here, and she said, "Oh, we're not supposed to have food and drink-"
Ray Hill: I secured this building for the station. When I was general manager, Bill Swenson; who's this gay guy bought the house. He had several patents. It was an engineer's. A really nice guy.
Ray Hill: [01:37:30] Bright. And then he bought the house, and he was just charging the station payments to use it. Of course, it had credit insurance. So when he died it was title free and after I left management, we had a falling out with the management. So I managed to keep him happy until he did die, so when he died we inherited the building. So I secured the building for the station.
Mason Funk: So you can let us have water in here- [crosstalk]
Ray Hill: [01:38:00] I give you a reprieve.
Mason Funk: You what?
Mason Funk: Exactly. You absolve us of all of our sins. We are almost, believe it or not, I can't believe it, we're almost running out of time.
Ray Hill: It's true.
Mason Funk: I can't believe it. So I'm going to ask you, even though I'm going to kick myself for all the things we didn't talk about, but I'm going to ask you four questions.
Amy Bench: Can I ask a question first?
Mason Funk: Oh, yeah, yeah. For sure.
Amy Bench: Just one.
Amy Bench: [01:38:30] You mentioned before we started the interview that your origins of being involved in a radio station. So did you get involved in radio because of a cute guy?
Ray Hill: No, I got involved in radio because of a jenny.
Mason Funk: So pretend that I asked this question. Ignore her.
Ray Hill: I was seven years old. A country boy. And I had a jennet. A jennet is a female jackass. And Jenum, was the name I gave her
Ray Hill: [01:39:00] because that's a twist on what she really was. Jenum and I were the best of friends. In the first place, jenny's have kinky dark hair on top and white hair on the bottom and theyre broad so you can literally lay down and sleep and she'll get you home. And so I'm seven years old. And running around with Jenum and she gets away from me, and I catch her eating tulips in front of this little building out in the middle of the prairie.
[01:39:30] So I go get her and I drag her out and I stake her. Tie her down. So she can't eat any more tulips. And I go to do the ethical thing and knock on the door and apologize for the lost tulips. Well, there's a radio station and a one room studio there. And there's an old guy in there whos playing radio station KBUK, Baytown, Texas. He's playing 78 RPM records, which means you've got to change the needle about every third record
Ray Hill: [01:40:00] because all there is to that needle is a straight piece of metal that's sharp. And it wears down and it ceases to be as good a broadcast quality. And the music is Hank Williams, Roy Acuff, Gene Autry, Texas Swing, country music, it's the country and western song classic of the day and he's playing all that.
Ray Hill: [01:40:30] What he wants to do is get out of that building and smoke. He can't smoke there because transmitters there and everything is vacuum tubes and vacuum tubed off gas and so with some explosive air in there, he can't smoke there and he wants to drink and the station won't let him bring it there. So he asked me if I would cue up the record. He taught me how to do that and play a few songs while he went out to his car and smoked and drank.
Ray Hill: [01:41:00] And so I'd get in there and I'd play a record and then I'd try to sound like a cowboy between the cuts and that was cute. And the audience increased. It was a sun up to sun down radio station. It didn't have 24 hour operation. And he was the only employee and he was glad to see me coming because he got a chance to go smoke and drink. And so I'd go every day and then stay a couple of cycles and play music and I got into it. I loved radio. And when I went to college
Ray Hill: [01:41:30] I was the morning D.J. on radio station KEEE, Nagodoches, Texas. The key to East Texas communications. And that was my radio days. And once you get it in your veins, you're an addict. You can't help yourself. You keep coming back to radio stations.
Mason Funk: Wow. Any other questions?
Amy Bench: Can I have another one?
Amy Bench: I was only prepared for one.
Mason Funk: [01:42:00] Oh, yeah.
Amy Bench: And then why ... can you just summarize why are you an activist? Why did you become an activist?
Mason Funk: And try to keep it-[crosstalk]
Amy Bench: Can you rotate your chair towards me?
Ray Hill: Well, you know-
Mason Funk: Look at me, not her.
Ray Hill: Yeah. Frankie. Everybody knows about gay men and their mothers. Frankie was a labor goon. Labor goons always believed the world can be a better place.
Ray Hill: [01:42:30] And somehow or other labor goons have convinced themselves it's their responsibility to make that happen. And I am the one queer, ex-convict you will probably meet in your lifetime who grew up to be exactly who his mother intended him to be. Frankie was so proud of the prison show.
Ray Hill: [01:43:00] Now she had been a prisoner's mother, while I was in prison. And then there's this five year delay before the prison show started. She listened to it every week. And I'd go home, in her latter years, it fell to the gay son to take care of Frankie and her [inaudible]. She would remember a show that I had done a decade before.
Ray Hill: [01:43:30] And want to discuss with me why I thought that would work. She was that kind of analytic mind. She understood building of community. Ultimately when I got on the radio and I realized that I had this convict audience I said, "Well, hell, I did a good job of building community with radio on the Wilde and Stein show. And convicts are the same people. They're people oppressed by their own guilt
Ray Hill: [01:44:00] and the shame and unfulfilled aspirations. So I can create community among convicts. Then I learned that the guilt one feels for what one has done is far less overcome-able than the guilt one feels for who one is. Our minds tell us that really don't make sense, but if we have actually done the robbery
Ray Hill: [01:44:30] or the homicide or hot check writing or car theft or whatever it is, that's harder guilt and shame to excise than the guilt or shame for just being. And that's the difference between the audience. But still, still, certainly not the majority of my listeners, but I run into old convicts that say you changed my life.
Ray Hill: [01:45:00] And your voice in radio. You told me that I wasn't the slime my old step-daddy told me I was and I wasn't a slave the warden was trying to make me. I was a real human being and let me tell you what I'm doing. I'm helping with the AIDS Foundation or I'm over here doing work with children to prevent them from falling into traps and then they brag about the positive contributions they're making to people beyond themselves and that's exactly what the message I wanted them to get.
Ray Hill: [01:45:30] And guess what? They ain't going back to prison. They've got things that are more important to take care out here than to do stuff to go back to prison.
Ray Hill: So to a degree, the prison show worked. Not on everybody, but to enough of them.
Mason Funk: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Do we have to be out of here at 11?
Ray Hill: No.
Mason Funk: Oh, okay. I thought you said something about that because I see someone came to the door a minute ago.
Ray Hill: No, that's all right.
Mason Funk: Okay. Someone just came up there. That's all right. They come, they look, and they go away.
Ray Hill: [01:46:00] Okay. What do they look like?
Mason Funk: I couldn't tell except-
Amy Bench: I couldn't tell.
Mason Funk: Sort of a larger person wearing Bermuda shorts.
Ray Hill: Scary.
Mason Funk: That is scary.
Ray Hill: Sounds like an executive around here.
Mason Funk: Exactly. What do you feel like you haven't talked about that you-
Ray Hill: [01:46:30] Well, the people I met on the trail. Arthur Warner. Arthur Warner was an openly gay professor from Princeton, New Jersey. I think he had papers from Harvard at the time because I've since learned that Princeton University doesn't have a law school, but he was a law professor. He was from Princeton aristocracy. Arthur Warner. It's spelled with a W, but pronounced with a V. One of those kinds of things.
Ray Hill: [01:47:00] Arthur was tasked by the American Law Institute and the American Law Institute is a 400-member organization. You can only get in by invitation. Kind of a bar association of law professors. And they take the cream of the crop. And Arthur was in that fold, and in the early 60s, when I met Arthur, he was openly gay to me. I don't think he was openly gay to the rest of the world, but he was openly gay to me. And he drove a Nash, which is a big car.
Ray Hill: [01:47:30] Big, comfortable, good traveling car for the era. It had reclining seats. You could sleep in it. And he cruised truck stops. So the common ground between me and Arthur was cruising truck stops. He was there for big, burly truck drivers. I was there for the gas jockeys who are a special, at that time, breed of people. They were small. They were lightweight because they had to scamper all over these big trucks and check the oil and change it.
Ray Hill: [01:48:00] And clean the windshields and all that and everything. Cutest little things and wore the tightest Levis on the planet. And so I was after the gas jockeys and he was after the truck drivers. So we could cruise together and not compete. And I spent hours on the road with him. His task at the time from the American Law Institution was to write a model penal code that would replace the criminal codes. What had happened is over the years, criminal law basically the state law
Ray Hill: [01:48:30] and it starts and then something happens and then they pass a new criminal law, and it is accumulative, and it's archaic, and it's crazy. And if you practice criminal law in Texas, you can't cross the border and practice in Oklahoma. Or Louisiana or New Mexico or Arkansas because the laws were that different from state to state. So the American Law Institute said, "Well, we're going to fix this problem. We're going to come up with a unified model penal code." And so Arthur was tasked to do that.
Ray Hill: [01:49:00] And so he was ... we traveled around in the Nash and I was reading ... he was driving. I'm reading the galleys of his model penal code. And I said, "Arthur, there's nothing in here about sodomy or homosexual behavior." And he said, "No, no, and I left the chickens and the goats out too because I didn't get a lot of complaints from chickens and goats." So the model penal code was the first body of American law that did not criminalize homosexual behavior. Now, I'd been working on that since the 60s.
Ray Hill: [01:49:30] Before the 60s, but then in '63 or '64, while he was working on it, it was a surprise to me there was actually a body of law written for Americans that did not criminalize homosexual behavior and it passed the Illinois legislature in 1968. And Illinois became the first state in the United States that had a body of criminal law
Ray Hill: [01:50:00] where homosexual intimacy was not sanctioned under that law. Wow. And then by 1973, it hits the Texas legislature and I'm in prison in 1973, but I'm communicating with Debra Denburg and Ron Waters and Barbara Jordan and Mickey Leland. These are my friends from Houston that are in the Texas legislature. Barbara's a Senator and everybody else is in the House of Representatives.
Ray Hill: [01:50:30] And I'm communicating with them about the need to adopt the model penal code. And they pass it, but the Governor refused to sign it because there's nothing in there about homosexuals. I go back to Arthur Warner. The beginning of that. See, I'm close to the origin and here I'm in a prison cell waiting with baited-breath for this to happen.
Ray Hill: [01:51:00] And so they write Section 21.06 of the penal code, which makes homosexual behavior a Class C misdemeanor. Remember that fine only Class C misdemeanor that I was arrested for? Well now, homosexual behavior stopped being a felony for which one could get prison time and multiple convictions, one could get life in Texas prison for being gay. And it's a Class C misdemeanor.
Ray Hill: [01:51:30] If the officer catches you and gives you a ticket. He walks off and you go back to doing whatever it was he gave you a ticket for. See what I mean? That stuff. That ain't the way it ever worked, but that was the idea. And the warden calls me in the office. "Oh, Hill" "Yeah, big boss?" "You interested in that queer shit ain't ya?" And I said, "Sure am." " You know what's going on in the legislature?" "Day to day." "Well, I'm going to put five boys, boys,
Ray Hill: [01:52:00] on chain tomorrow because apparently what they down here for has become a misdemeanor and the warden will give them a pardon and they can leave." "And I thought you might want to go down to the cell block where they stand and wish them a fair thee well." And I said, "Well, thank you Warden. I appreciate your generosity. I'll take off a little early and go by some-" "Ah, no. I thought about that commissary thing too. I told that commissary lead to just give you anything you want and I'd pay for it." So the warden on the Ramsey in 1973
Ray Hill: [01:52:30] financed the number one queer on the unit to go down to the punk wing. I didn't live in the pod. I lived in the construction wing with the guys I worked, but there is a punk wing which is where the queers live. And I went down to the queer wing that night and met five old men, who had been sentenced to life in Texas prison for being ... I think I'm the only living human being who has actually met five old men whos sentenced to prison for life.
Ray Hill: [01:53:00] One of them I knew about. Eldon Buchanan. He fought his cases in appeal court. When you fight in the appeals court to get written up and I knew about his cases. Eldon was a bathroom cruising queen in Dallas and got busted in a Sears and Roebuck. Had her boyfriend stand in the shopping bag at the front of the men's room toilet, so that nobody would see his feet under there. And got arrested two more times before that case was resolved. Wound up with a little abstinence.
Ray Hill: [01:53:30] Two other guys were a couple. It was a Hispanic guy and a white guy from Schneider, Texas. And they owned land. The white guy had inherited land, but his uncle was the High Sheriff and wanted to graze his cattle. And so he grazed his cattle on his land and the Sheriff just come kick down the door. Whether they were doing anything or not, they were going to get accused of it. They'd been convicted before. Three times, life sentence, you're gone. And they thought it was real funny the next time they came.
Ray Hill: [01:54:00] They had to write them a ticket. And leave and then the other three times is a real story. We appreciate getting this pardon. I appreciate getting out, but that's not what we're down here for. They could not come out of the closet even on the occasion of getting pardoned for a life sentence. They had obviously had three sodomy convictions and they lived in the gay wing on the prison and still they could not admit to being gay. There's a story there.
Mason Funk: [01:54:30] Wow. All right. Well, there's lots of stories there.
Mason Funk: I'm going to ask you just a couple quick questions before we go.
Mason Funk: And these are intended to be like super short answers.
Ray Hill: Okay. Do the best I can.
Mason Funk: If someone comes to you today and says, "I'm thinking about coming out." What single piece of advice do you give them?
Ray Hill: [01:55:00] What took you so long? There's no reason for people to be in the closet today. We're not alone. I mean, if it's cops you're scared of. Let me carry you over to Starbuck's and I'll introduce you to five gay cops this afternoon. Three of them will be lesbians, but they're gay cops and they don't care. If your family cares, it's only because they're hung up on a religious kind of constipation. That they'd really like to get out of, but they don't know how. So role model escaping from that.
Ray Hill: [01:55:30] I started out as this fundamentalist religious guy. I just did a radio program with a guy from Iraq and he couldn't deal with the issue of gay and being Muslim so he transplanted. He dealt with the issue of being a believer in evolution. He's a doctor. And is practicing medicine and still believed in creationism,
Ray Hill: [01:56:00] so that gave him a surrogate way out. Harvey [Mote] did not say organize, organize, organize. Harvey Mote said come out, come out, come out. And that makes all the difference.
Mason Funk: What is your ... what do you hope to see in the future, whether you're around or not?
Ray Hill: [01:56:30] Well, just about the time we get same gender marriage, there's a whole body of people out there, mostly lesbians that says I want anything in my relationship ... marriage is going to screw up my relationship with my loving companion. And so we're dealing ... everything affects everything and that carries me back to Margaret Meade. Margaret Meade was aware that the evolution of the feminist movement meant such deep cultural change.
Ray Hill: [01:57:00] What is the edifice complex in a gender neutral world? All of Freud goes right down the toilet, right there. Everything we do affects virtually everything else. That's why you need to read Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals, because when we had a power to bring change and change is always beyond what we anticipate,
Ray Hill: [01:57:30] we have the moral and ethical obligation to do that with such a high level of standard. That we take responsibility for the changes we create. And I think ... I do not understand life without being an activist. I don't have any idea what it would be like to be somebody else, but I am very pleased.
Ray Hill: [01:58:00] There's this old Russian thing that says ... it doesn't say may I be rich or may I be famous. It says, "May I live in interesting times. Well, I have lived in interesting times in aces.
Mason Funk: Why is it important to you to tell your story?
Ray Hill: In the hopes that somebody will see in their own experience the opportunity to Robert Burns.
Ray Hill: [01:58:30] Robert Burns. A man's reach should be beyond his grasp or why are the heaven's far. Be more than you think you can be. You have more to offer than you realize you have to offer. And I have learned that so many times. I'm always surprised by it, but I could leave an audience or a room or a crowd or rab and say,
Ray Hill: [01:59:00] "Wow. That was a life changing moment for them. And I was able to pull it together." And finally because I got drunk on my own adrenaline and did a stupid thing, but it worked for them.
Mason Funk: And what is the importance of a project like OUTWORDS?
Ray Hill: OUTWORDS is the conduit. They'll see it on film or they'll read about it.
Ray Hill: [01:59:30] They will realize those relatively few gay people who think they live in a world all of their own. There was a time when you'd walk in a room and say, "Do you remember when you were the only queer in the world?" And everyone would start nodding because they felt that way. They don't feel that way that much anymore, but there are still those people that are struggling with that. And this interview I did with this young doctor from Iraq. I mean, he's so pretty
Ray Hill: [02:00:00] and so is telling about ... we got to talking about change and we got into that evolutionary story of where the people around him believed in evolution and he didn't. And so they gave him a Christopher Hitchins book. I mean, that's hardcore stuff in that field. And he read it, but he took it to heart and he's real changed and the next morning he sent me an email. He said, "I guess you're just used to inspiring people,
Ray Hill: [02:00:30] but most of us aren't. And thank you." To take him on his journey and intercede at a point where his horizons are beginning to open, it's like that wonderful New Mexican artist who painted the flowers very close. And you see the blossom opening.
Ray Hill: [02:01:00] This is a human being with an enormous amount of potential and a caring, gentle, small hands to help people with health related issues and had to smuggle out and become a refugee and overcome all of those problems and become a contributing member of somebody else's society. That's exciting. Nobody will ever know about him unless he writes in a biography, but that's certainly exciting to watch.
Mason Funk: [02:01:30] Great. It doesn't get any better than that. Thank you. Thank you.
Ray Hill: Well, if you need more, we can do more. I mean, there's no end to it.
Mason Funk: You know, I think we should stop there. Like I said, we could go all day literally, but I kind of want to keep us on our schedule because we're going to do two interviews this afternoon over at the Montrose. John Richardson and Kenneth.
Ray Hill: [02:02:00] Oh okay. Good.
Mason Funk: Both of them you connected me to.
Mason Funk: And my ass also.

Interviewed by: Mason Funk
Camera: Amy Bench
Date: June 02, 2017
Location: Home of Ray Hill, Houston, TX