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Remembering KPFT’s Ray Hill, Pioneering “Prison Show” Host and LGBT Activist in Houston

Web ExclusiveNovember 26, 2018
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Ray Hill, a co-founder of Pacifica radio station KPFT in Houston, Texas, died Saturday from heart failure. He was 78. After his release from prison in 1975, Ray helped organize Houston’s first gay rights groups as well as the first National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1979. As general manager of KFPT in 1980 he created “The Prison Show,” which he hosted for 20 years, combining news with on-air phone calls from families and friends so they could speak to their loved ones behind bars. Ray Hill’s tombstone will reference his proudest achievement: a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1987 that he was unconstitutionally arrested for interrupting police officers performing their duties, after he yelled at them to stop beating a man in his front yard.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

Ray Hill, a co-founder of Pacifica radio station KPFT in Houston, Texas, died Saturday from heart failure. He was 78 years old. After his release from prison in 1975, Ray helped organize Houston’s first gay rights groups and the first National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1979. As general manager of KPFT in 1980, he created The Prison Show.

BOBBY BARE: [singing] Warden, come down here, and kiss me hello, 'cause I'm back home in Huntsville again.

RAY HILL: Radio station KPFT in Houston proudly presents The Prison Show on Friday nights between 9:00 and 11:00. It talks about the biggest industry that eats up your tax dollars: Texas prisons.

AMY GOODMAN: Ray Hill hosted The Prison Show for 20 years, combining news with on-air phone calls from families and friends on both sides of the bars so they could speak to each other, so that people on the outside could speak to their loved ones behind bars, like this little girl who visited regularly in order to sing to her dad.

GIRL: [singing] You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray. You never know, dear, how much I love you. So please don’t take my sunshine away.

AMY GOODMAN: Ray Hill’s tombstone will reference his proudest achievement: a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1987 that he was unconstitutionally arrested for interrupting police officers performing their duties, after he yelled at them to stop beating a man in his front yard.

RAY HILL: In Hill v. Houston, eight of the nine justices of the Supreme Court agreed that calling a police officer a mutha, or anything else for that matter, is not justification for arrest. Now, don’t try this on your way home. But that is still good law. You can find it in the books.

AMY GOODMAN: Ray Hill died in hospice care Saturday from heart failure surrounded by family. He was 78 years old. This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman.

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