Before Houston, TX, native Ray Hill became a galvanizing gay activist, he had been a Baptist evangelist and a convicted burglar who served four years in prison. Not a typo.
Mr. Hill, who died November 24, was a larger-than-life character who said, "I was born to rub the cat hair the wrong direction." He described his occupation as a "journeyman-quality hell raiser, and on his business cards the words "Citizen Provocateur" were printed under his name. He partnered with San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk to organize the 1979 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. 80,000 activists showed up. But the second national march he helped organize drew more than 200,000 people in 1987, the largest gay rights demonstration in history.
A renowned radio broadcaster, he co-founded KPTF-FM in Houston, where he started a program on LGBTG issues. In 1980 Texas prisoners could not call home to speak to immediate family or close relatives. Although Hill lobbied for a 2007 state law allowing such, his prior efforts resulted in radio's "The Prison Show" with a call-in segment that allowed families to update inmates with greetings, family details and news of births and deaths and such trivialities as children's soccer game scores.
He bullied Anita Bryant in 1977 but campaigned for several female politicians, most notably Annise Parker, who became Houston's first gay mayor in 2010. But that's not all. When his sister died in an automobile accident in 1977, Mr. Hill raised her two children. In fact, his entire life became a legacy of service to others.
After losing his left leg and right foot to diabetes, he resided at Omega House in Houston, a hospice center he helped establish in the 1980s. He had been hospitalized earlier this year with heart problems. His funeral was held yesterday on the steps of Houston's City Hall, where Mayor Sylvester Turner delivered a statement that called Mr. Hill a warrior in the fight for gay rights, human rights and criminal justice reforms.
Role models of greatness.
Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.