Ray Hill, the longtime vocal advocate for both LGBT rights and prison reform died of heart failure at Omega House Hospice Saturday. He was 78.
Former Mayor Annise Parker told our TV partner KPRC Channel-2 Hill was an icon in the gay community; “Ray's always had a really clear sense of right and wrong.”
For years, Hill’s business cards referred to him as a “citizen provocateur” reading, “pesky, contemptuous, troublemaker” and “afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted.”
His activist career started in 1975, after serving a four-year prison sentence on burglary and larceny convictions. He founded and hosted “The Prison Show”, and anti-death penalty forum where families with loved ones on death row could provide updates on their cases.
He’s perhaps best known for his battle against a city ordinance that went all the way to the US Supreme Court. The old law made it illegal to interrupt or argue with a police officer in the performance of their official duties.
Parker said, “There are very few people who can say they had a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court and fundamentally changed how people interact with the police department."
Current Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner released a statement:
“Ray Hill, my friend and warrior, has passed. Fighting for gay rights, human rights, criminal justice reforms, Ray was on the front line and helped pave the way for many others to follow. He was authentic, committed and respected.
"Last week, when Ray Hill posted on Facebook that his heart capacity was at 10 percent, many of his friends had the same retort: At 10 percent, Ray’s heart was still bigger and stronger than most other people’s at 100 percent. It’s true. Ray had a heart for justice, equality and acceptance for decades, and he followed his heart into the streets, courtrooms, city council chambers, legislative hearing rooms, jails, prisons and radio stations of our city and state, advocating for his causes well before they became popular. I’m one of many people who agreed with him about his important causes now. But such positions are relatively easy to take and express now that Ray has blazed the trail. Rest in peace Ray Hill."