The Ray Hill Papers date from 1940 to 2020. The collection consists primarily of letters written to Hill (from prisoners held in Texas prisons) while he was host of The Prison Show that airs on 90.1 FM KPFT. Created by Hill, the show discusses prisoners rights and issues within the criminal justice system. There are also letters written to Hill from friends and family members of prisoners. These letters offer a look into the daily lives and treatment of prisoners. The collection also documents Hill's work as a gay rights and community rights activist through subject files that cover adult businesses, HIV/AIDS, transgender rights and other topics. Additionally, there are manuscripts written by Hill, scripts of his performances, awards interviews done by Hill, and recordings of The Prison Show.
Collection is open for research with the exception of materials to protect personally identifiable health information.
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63 Linear Feet (58 boxes, 1 flat file)
Ray Hill (1940-2018) was a LGBTQ rights activist, prison reform activist, actor, and radio host of The Prison Show which airs on Houston, Texas radio station KPFT.
Born to labor organizer parents in Houston, Hill attended Galena Park High School where he played football and as a junior, came out to his family in 1958. He attended several universities but did not obtain any degrees.
Originally on the path to become a Baptist preacher, his life changed when in 1971, he was arrested on burglary charges in California. He was extradited to Texas and sentenced to 160 years in prison. The sentence was shortened to 8 years and he was released on grounds of good behavior after serving 4 years. His time in prison made him want to improve the lives of those behind bars. In 1980, he created The Prison Show. The show discusses issues that would be of interest to those imprisoned and also allowed family members to read messages to them over the air. In 1987, another run in with the law would lead to Hill challenging the City of Houston in the Supreme Court of the United States. Hill was arrested for yelling at police officers who were arresting his friend. Hill believed that the city ordinance police officers used to justify his arrest was unconstitutional. The City of Houston v. Hill invalidated the ordinance and declared that Hill’s action were protected by the First Amendment.
Hill’s notability in Houston also came from his work to secure rights for the LGBTQ community. In 1978, he organized Town Meeting I, that brought 4,000 people to the Astro Arena to discuss issues facing LGBTQ community in Houston and to motivate them towards action. Hill also assisted Harvey Milk and others in organizing the first National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights that took place October 14, 1979.
Ray Hill passed away November 24, 2018 at the hospice Omega House. Hill assisted in developing Omega House as a hospice for AIDS patients in the 1980s.
These records are organized into seven series:
Series I. Correspondence from prisoners, 1980-2020;
Series II. Correspondence about prisoners and prisons, 1987-2016;
Series III. KPFT/The Prison Show, 1979-2018;
Series IV. Subject files, 1976-2018;
Series V. Ray Hill personal, 1940-2018;
Series VI. Artifacts, awards, and ephemera, 1976-2018;
Series VII. Audiovisual, 1979-2017.
Materials were donated by Ray Hill to University of Houston Libraries in 2017.
In 2021, Brooks Whittaker arranged and rehoused the materials, and created the collection description in compliance with current professional standards.
Part of the University of Houston Libraries Special Collections Repository