11/28/18 Ray Hill

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Ray Hill

Tribute to Ray Hill, KPFT founder, programmer, icon has died. Amy Morales Rays' Death Dula joins us for the half hour. Ray Hill had been a teen evangelist, a quarterback at his High School, a cat burglar, a radio host, a gay ex-con who somehow managed to crusade for both LGBT causes and prisoners' rights. Ray swayed a couple of supreme court decisions and made his way into history.

Audio file


NOVEMBER 28, 2018


DEAN BECKER: All right, folks, this is Dean Becker, you're listening to Cultural Baggage here on KPFT, the mothership of the Drug Truth Network. Don't have our standard intro, going to have a slightly different show today. It seems that my friend, my amigo, my buddy, my mentor, has passed on, Mister Ray Hill has left the building, so to speak, but his voice will never leave this studio.

Today, we're going to focus on a couple of shows that I did with Ray most recently. We have with us in studio his death dula, I guess is the one word that's being used, but, her name is Amy Morales.

AMY MORALES: Hey, Dean, thanks for having me.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, Amy, I want to get into your time, your months, spent at the Omega House with Ray Hill, and the folks that came to visit, and maybe some of the words that Ray wanted to be shared. But firstly, I tell you what, I want to get into the early days, what it was like when I came to this studio and how I got on air. Let's just hear this little segment.

It was back in 2001, KPFT was having a mini inhouse revolution. I went to the big meeting carrying a bunch of papers, trying to sell the idea of putting some sort of Drug Truth program on the airwaves. The program manager and the general manager heard me, maybe would have done something about it, but standing nearby was Mister Ray Hill.

He gave me a spot on his prison show. Almost immediately, other programs on KPFT reached out in the darkness, the labor show, the Pat and Rosie show, the queer show, all gave me segments, and not soon after, then-program director Otis Mclay gave me my first time slot. Otis, that was quite a beginning, was it not?

OTIS MCLAY: Well, yeah, and we had to have it. We had to have a show. The drug war was hot, you know, there was no medical marijuana anywhere in the country. It was just starting to happen, and we had to have that show. And you were doing really important work, you were connected, you know, with NORML, and you were doing this, doing so much work on the show, you had to be on the air.

DEAN BECKER: Well, and, thanks to you and Mister Ray Hill, we've now got I think 67 stations, US and Canada, that carry one or more of our programs. We're making progress, are we not, Otis?

OTIS MCLAY: Oh, we've made huge amounts of progress, and I'm -- I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of this was due to you, because you were exposing the whole banality and the evil of the drug war. I mean, it's horrible.

DEAN BECKER: And we do have Mister Ray Hill to thank for that.

OTIS MCLAY: Yes. Absolutely. Ray was one of the people who exposed all kinds of stuff.

DEAN BECKER: Ray was one of those people who exposed all kinds of stuff. I've got to stand with that thought. Once again, we do have Amy Morales with us, she sat with Mister Ray Hill since about August of this year.

AMY MORALES: That's right.

DEAN BECKER: Over at the Omega Hospice. Tell us what a typical day was like there with Ray.

AMY MORALES: So, I managed to take care of Ray while working my full-time job, and thankfully I have autonomy with my schedule. So, I work off of Montrose, and I could fold him into my day, and I would always make a trip out there in the morning, just to check on him, but I would have PRN visits all throughout the day, because he needed watermelon, or he needed lime sherbet ice cream, or he needed Clayburn's liver and onions.

So, I became his errand girl. If you research the definition of the word "dula," in Latin it's the most revered servant in the house. And so I really served Ray, and I was honored to do it, and there was no task too small for me to do for him.

So, I just ran around all day, doing whatever he asked. And at night, we sat and kind of reviewed the day.

DEAN BECKER: Well, I'll tell you what, it's my understanding, a lot of important people came by to see Ray. Maybe we'll get to listing some of those and talking about those visits here in just a little bit, but, I want to hear Ray on the radio. I mean, that's what I, jesus, man, he taught me how to do this. He taught me how to no longer be afraid of those cops and the prosecutors, because for the most part, they're just flailing.

They're trying to do a good job or just trying to do some kind of a job, without really giving a hoot whether they get it right or not, and it's our job to make sure they start getting it right, I guess. But, here's another track with Mister Hill. Let's just hear some more Ray.

This is Cultural Baggage. I'm your host, Dean Becker. Here in just a moment we're going to bring in our guest for this show, a gentleman who understands the power of the people, a gentleman who was there when flower power was making its heyday back in the Sixties going into the Seventies.

A gentleman who gave me my first chance on the airwaves of this nation, a man who for decades ran the prison show, a gentleman who understands human rights, a gentleman who has friends and contacts around the world, a gentleman greatly respected, my friend, Mister Ray Hill. And, he's my mentor, my advisor, my friend.

RAY HILL: Mercy, I don't know if I can live up to all of that, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: Ah, hell yeah, you can, Ray. Ray, the fact of the matter is, we talked briefly about this before the show.


DEAN BECKER: And my idea --

RAY HILL: We talk all the time. On a regular basis, about a lot of things.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, we do, but this particular one, Ray, I want to bring back the idea, the power, of flower power. I want to --

RAY HILL: You've had me thinking about that for almost two weeks now, Dean.

DEAN BECKER: Yes sir, and --

RAY HILL: And I've been doing all kinds of flashbacks. You know, you know what I do after I do this show? I've got to go downtown and pick up my 57 year sobriety chip. But that don't mean I don't have flashbacks.

DEAN BECKER: Well, those were the days, indeed they were. But the point being, I want to get the old folks out of their couches, I want to get them to stand up, I want to get them in their wheelchairs.

RAY HILL: Well, a lot of us can't stand that well.

DEAN BECKER: Well, they can get in their wheelchairs, but they can show these youngsters how it is to get involved and stand against injustice.

RAY HILL: Well, I was there.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir.

RAY HILL: All right? And the big issue there was, number one, Timothy Leary had started a movement that began on college campuses, it was a school bus painted all kind of psychedelic colors, driving around the country --


RAY HILL: -- and saying eat this sugar cube, and find nirvana today.

DEAN BECKER: Yes, yes.

RAY HILL: And, so that was the kind of gestalt we were in. Meanwhile, there was a war going on.

DEAN BECKER: As always.

RAY HILL: And so we decided that the opposite of bullets is flowers.

DEAN BECKER: Yep, yep.

RAY HILL: And so, we tried this first at, I think, Cornell. We were at Cornell, a bunch of us strategists, anti-warriors, were in, and there was a demonstration at Cornell, and the National Guard showed up.


RAY HILL: And we could get close to them. And so, everybody brought flowers, mostly daisies. And we put daisies in the barrels of their upright guns.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Yeah.

RAY HILL: And that was dubbed "Flower Power." And we were the generation that was going to bring about change in the fashion that Gandhi had suggested change be made.


RAY HILL: Now, I don't know if Gandhi would have joined us on legalization of marijuana, but he certainly would have joined us on anti-war.

DEAN BECKER: Indeed. Indeed.

RAY HILL: And, you know, he used to go around India and give lectures on the benefits of goat's milk.


RAY HILL: And it was really an anti-World War Two speech. But the title of it was The Household Benefits of Goat's Milk to Your Family's Nutrition.


RAY HILL: And so, everything was kind of disguised in something else in Gandhi's thing, and if you're a real Gandhi-ite, like I was, raised by my labor goon parents to be that, you look on ways to reach your subject matter by taking people through a different idea. So we talked about love, we talked about peace, and, let me tell you, there was a whole lot of sexist stuff going on in the free love movement.

Most young college males read free love as an opportunity to exploit women shamelessly, and some of us who were kind of feminist-leaning behind the scenes, would talk about that, but we wouldn't talk about it in a speech with that title.

DEAN BECKER: All right, again, that was my mentor Mister Ray Hill, giving us some good advice. You know, Ray, I mean, the newspapers and the broadcasters, they're talking about he was a childhood evangelist, I think it was too soon to be a televangelist, but apparently he was raking in money, scamming people, and then he became a cat burglar, and then he got caught, and then he went to prison, then he came out and he helped start this radio station, KPFT, the mothership of the Drug Truth Network.

Became a long time radio programmer, invented the prison show, ran it for 32-plus years, and hell, I think he was on it the last time he was out of the hospice, he came down to the studio. He never really quit.

And, he's just a guy who's greatly admired, respected, and missed, especially by yours truly. He's the one that gave me the courage, the chutzpah, whatever you want to call it, to make friends with the district attorney, the sheriff, the police chief, to not fear being open and honest with them.

And I feel we now have an open and honest relationship because of that. Someone who spent the last few months with Ray there at the Omega Hospice is Amy Morales. Amy, throw in your two cents. What do you remember most about tending to Ray?

AMY MORALES: I remember feeling so honored. I think what I'm feeling is nothing new to a bunch of you oldtimers who talk about knowing him for decades and decades, and while I feel like I almost don't deserve, you know, the same title that you guys have of his friend, I was his friend.

I mean, we fell in non-romantic love from the first second I saw him, and he empowered me, the same way he's empowered countless others, and I think that there's something really profound and extremely special about our relationship, because even though I got him at the very tail end, I got a really -- I got to see a side of Ray that I think wasn't exposed much to the public.

Just some really good soul work going on with, you know, in the last 90 days of his life.


AMY MORALES: And some of his energy transferred into me, and a couple of people have dubbed me, and I hate to liken myself to him, I don't even, I could not fill his shoes, but they've kind of likened me into this Baby Ray, because I am, I've been outspoken my whole life, and I have some pretty big dreams that I'm chasing, and what Ray did was he poured himself into me, as a final act.

And he left me with some projects to work on, and I just, I couldn't be more proud and more excited about the things I'm about to set out and do because of the power and the ability that he put into me.

DEAN BECKER: Well, you should be honored. Look, I have used the expression a few times, there are several Rays Strays, those he picked up that were maybe meandering with intent or purpose, and helped give them direction. Certainly he did that with me. He's done it with Mike Allen, he's done it with the current prison show crew.

As you say, he's done it with you as well. And I think that's a lot of what Ray was about, that he could see real well. I don't know, I think he needed glasses, but he could see what needed done real well.

AMY MORALES: And he could see into others really well. He had a really good, the word is escaping me right now, but he could see into you and if you had a vision that lined up with him, he could definitely put you in the way of being heard, you know?

And I feel like I was Ray's last kitten. If you've watched -- if you've watched Citizen Provocateur, he says, if they meow, they're mine. And Ray has a lot of kittens, he's got a lot of babies, and I'm very honored that I was his last kitten.

DEAN BECKER: I forget, was it the Chronicle, or maybe a couple of the stories they talked about, quoting Ray Hill, says, I like to rub the cat hair backwards.

AMY MORALES: Yes. He was born to rub the cat hair the wrong way, is what he said.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. And, you know, I don't know, it's going to be difficult for me, because, you know, nearly every week I'd be calling Ray about a situation, get a little advice, and, you know, I wish I had made the transition, you know.

The last mayor, Mayor Parker, you know, she came on my show a couple of times, but the current mayor, I don't know, Mayor Turner, maybe he will someday, maybe now that Ray's gone he'll realize that he needs to talk about this drug war as well. He needs to open up this can of worms and go fishing for truth, like a lot of other folks have done.

Again, I'm Dean Becker, you're listening to the Cultural Baggage. We're live in studio, talking about our friend, our mentor, our buddy, Mister Ray Hill. A little bit later, you will hear the Century of Lies show, being put together by my buddy Doug McVay. This week, he's going to talk about the medicalization of marijuana, and then of course later you'll her Brother Mohammed with Connect the Dots, but, I want to share some more with Ray.

I don't know, just makes me feel better. Here we go.

Ray, I want to go ahead and take our break. We normally do Name That Drug By Its Side Effects. We're going to do a little slightly different twist on it today.

VOICEOVER: Hey young America. We need to talk. You may think that this is uncool. You may even think that it is bogus but I want to tell about something that has everyone buzzing - something that concerns mature boys and girls just like you. Something called grass.

Not that grass. I’m talking about marijuana.

DEAN BECKER: Courtesy of the Chicago Tribune, this is former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon.

JIM MCMAHON: Well, I know medicinal marijuana's been a godsend for me, I mean, with my chronic pain, all my surgeries I've had, the arthritis. It's -- it's getting me through the day, and I would hope the governor would get on board with this. It's helped so many people, epileptics, cancer patients.

It's definitely helped, it helps me every day. I use it every day, and it gets me through the day. I feel a heck -- a heck of a lot better than I did when I used to have to take all those pain pills.

DEAN BECKER: All right, there you have it, from Jim McMahon. He's one of many NFL players, former players, they can't talk about it while they're still getting a paycheck, I suppose, but one of many NFL players who've come out for medical marijuana, to get off the pills, to help them have a more reasonable day. Go ahead, Ray.

RAY HILL: One of the things marijuana rights supporters need to do is to develop something like gaydar. So that you can recognize casual users on sight, and you don't have to ask, you don't have to wait until they get out of the NFL, you know. I knew Joe Namath was queer the minute I saw him walk off of the field with his helmet under his arm. My gaydar went off, and it went wee, wee, wee.

And I said, oh, okeh, got it. Got it. Got it. It would be years before anybody would, you know, a scandal column would come out with that, but I knew it right away.


RAY HILL: I mean, gaydar works. And, let me tell you, a lot of dope users are going to just have to come out of the closet. You're just going to have to do that. They'd say, well Raymond, it's illegal, I can't come out of the closet.

Wait a minute. When I came out of the closet as a gay person, it was a felony.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Yeah.

RAY HILL: I could go to prison if I got caught.


RAY HILL: But, Ma Rainey has a song, You Got To Prove It On Me. Look it up and play it, it's on the internet, you can't miss it.

DEAN BECKER: As Ray was talking about, you smoke pot, or you've done drugs, or you know it's just a big fairytale, and yet because of the ramifications --

RAY HILL: Stigma.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, the stigma --

RAY HILL: The stigma.

DEAN BECKER: -- at church, at school, at work, around the neighborhood, you don't want it to be known that you use this stuff, because of that stigma Ray's talking about.

RAY HILL: Well, let me tell you, like, when I came out as a gay person, if I got caught actually having sex with another guy, and got arrested, that was a felony offense, I'd go to prison. I used to go to the police station and pick up tricks after they got through paying their traffic fines. Don't think I ever lost a man because of the law.

DEAN BECKER: I hear you, Ray. And look, back when I was smoking, it was a felony. Hell, we had the guy, Lee Otis Johnson, who stepped in --

RAY HILL: Got 40 years.

DEAN BECKER: He stepped into a circle of people passing a joint, took a hit, passed it on. They put the cuffs on him and arrested him for distribution of marijuana.

RAY HILL: Well, the guy that brought the dope was an undercover police officer. He lit the joint, handed it to Lee Otis. Lee Otis took a toke, gave it to the next guy, and they got him for smoking it, possession, and delivery.

And the cop brought the dope to the scene, and he got 40 years there because he was a black civil rights activist and a friend of mine, and a friend of early crowd of people that made KPFT work. And I followed his career, when he got out of prison he was so messed up, that he went right on into heroin, trying to treat the pain, trying to self-dose the pain.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Ray, you spent your time in prison, and I think about those who, jeez, endure these years behind bars, and then they come out and they get maybe a fifty dollar stipend to go survive in this world.

RAY HILL: Fifty dollars at the gate and another fifty dollars when you see your parole officer. That's for the rest of your life.

DEAN BECKER: And they're expected to get a job with that record, they're expected to pay their bills, they're expected to pay for their own parole, they're expected to pay for everything, and little wonder that many of them just lose hope and go back to where they were before. Am I right?

RAY HILL: Well, that's what the prison show deals with on an everyday basis.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Ray, and that's, the drug war is tied into so many things, into immigration, into racial bigotry, into, even homophobia, into all kinds of phobias that we, you know, wage upon our fellow man.

RAY HILL: And you have no idea, really, unless you went down there, I mean you read about it, but living on a prison, and I lived in Texas prison for four years, four months, and seventeen days. You have no idea how many people whose only wrongdoing was they had something in their pocket.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Yeah. Little bit of cocaine.

RAY HILL: Little bit of something in their pocket.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Yeah. Suddenly they're --

RAY HILL: And, they were a little bit emboldened because they were high on what they'd used up, but what they had left got them a case.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Well, I've said it on air many times, I've been busted 13 times. Eleven of them for being drunk with drugs in my pocket. I was never charged for drunkenness, but I was always charged for that little bit of weed that was in my shirt pocket.

RAY HILL: Dean, you have any idea how many people are sitting in a prison cell, listening to this show right now, because they love your show?

DEAN BECKER: Ray, we've got a few minutes left here, and I want to come back to my idea of the flower power, of the, maybe not the summer of love, but the season of love, of recognizing we have --

RAY HILL: Well, you know, I think, I think, I think if enough people think they are enough worthy causes for us to bond together peacefully and lovingly, and start looking at making change to where society, we ain't going to do it with guns, them guys in Oregon got the wrong idea altogether.

If you want to bring about change, reach into people's hearts, and what goes on in your heart? That's a movement of love.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah. Yeah.

RAY HILL: You know, Gandhi wrote the book, he didn't write it in those terms. Timothy Leary picked up on that, and flower power and love. Drop out, turn on, and feel good. And we can feel good again.

We can bring about change in the drug laws, we can bring about sentencing changes. In the last two years they have dropped the weight marker off of federal drug charges. That has saved people decades and decades of time. Fewer people locked up means that we've got more money to do important things, like see what we can do to fix the children in Flint, Michigan.


All right, friends, you are listening to Cultural Baggage. I cut that track short because I want to get a chance to talk with Amy Morales. Earlier, I mentioned, you know, I'm aware of certain folks, I'm going to let you go through the list, but, a lot of very important folks went to visit Ray there in the hospice, did they not?

AMY MORALES: Oh, gosh, at -- there were certain times when we had to kind of limit visitors, if he'd be having a particularly rough day, because the line of visitors just never stopped. It never stopped, from the hospital to the hospice, there was just so many people who wanted to come see him and just talk about how much he had changed their lives.

And, this was -- it spanned the entire spectrum. I'm talking homeless people, sick people, inmates, convicts, AA members, drug addicts, councilmen, judges, lawyers, mayors, I'm talking -- Ray had friends, across the entire spectrum, as you all know.


AMY MORALES: I was there when you came into visit him.


AMY MORALES: Captured some pretty good live moments.

DEAN BECKER: Well, yeah, I started blubbering a little bit, and Ray basically told me to stuff it, that we needed to talk instead, and I think that's the whole case. And you know, I've got to say this. When, I guess it was August, he said, I'm tired of all these plugs and things stuck in me, let's just let it go ahead and take a natural course.

AMY MORALES: That was October First, when he said he was tired of all of that.

DEAN BECKER: And so he basically pulled the plug on himself, and it took damn near two months to finish him off, so to speak.

AMY MORALES: He's a force of -- he's a force that Mother Nature herself couldn't stop. When he -- when the hospital told me he was dying, and to my trained eyes it looked like he was dying, he reversed that, and said I've got work to do.

And we worked on a couple projects from his deathbed, like I told you, and so even when Mother Nature said it's time, Ray Hill said no, it's not, and that didn't come up again until he called her, Mother Nature, and said now it's time. Now you can proceed.

His will to live and his will to die was a phenomenal thing to watch, because he willed himself back to life on October First. I watched him come off life support, and we didn't think he was going to make it to the speaking event at the Contemporary Arts Museum back in September. He made it to that.

We didn't think he was going to make it to his seventy-eighth birthday on October Thirteenth. He made it to that. I was starting to plan for Christmas with him.

DEAN BECKER: Well, it will be a different Christmas without him.


DEAN BECKER: I've got to admit that, but, you know, I feel like, you know, I lost my parents in the last ten years, and you know, that was horrible, and I kind of felt like Ray, by taking so long to pass, he gave us all plenty of time to prep for it. I've cried, I cried probably a half dozen times, but I was in essence prepared.

I think maybe Ray was helping his friends and allies by taking so long, and I made a reference the other day that he kind of went out like a king. He went out with people coming to see him and share their thoughts, and their hopes for the future, without him, because they know what he brought forward should be included, should be remembered, and utilized.

AMY MORALES: Absolutely. He passed the baton to many people.

DEAN BECKER: Yes he did.

AMY MORALES: And I'm included, I'm including myself because he flat out said that he was doing so. So we've got a lot of weight to carry here, we've got a lot of things to accomplish, to do right by him.

DEAN BECKER: Amy, I'd be remiss, we're almost forgetting to do this, this coming Sunday is Ray Hill's funeral. Give us the full details, please.

AMY MORALES: Absolutely. So, if you've ever watched the short by Travis Johns, Proud Pony Productions, called The Trouble With Ray, if you haven't seen it, I need you to go watch it today. It's just a six minute clip on YouTube.

In there, he talks about being born at Baptist Memorial across the street from Houston City Hall, and he talks about, you know, working most of his life on the steps of city hall, and he really is bringing that full circle.

When we sat down to plan his funeral, he said I don't want it to be long or boring, I do not want it to be inside of a church, actually I think I want it on the steps of city hall. And I said, are you kidding? And he said, no.

So, the circle of life, he actually brought that all the way around. He was born there, he worked there, and that's where he's going to say goodbye to everyone. That will be Sunday, December Second, at 2 PM, Ray Hill's memorial service on the steps of city hall.

DEAN BECKER: Well, the service will be led by past mayor Denise Parker, some notables, and as I understand it I'll get to talk in the third round of speakers to remember my friend, but I'm sure there's going to be a lot of people wanting to talk about Mister Ray Hill.

AMY MORALES: Oh, you already know it.

DEAN BECKER: That's for certain. I'll tell you what, I've got one more track I want to share.

Well you know Ray, it's, you know, I take some pride in all this but it's not me. It's you, it's the Drug Policy Forum of Texas, it's NORML, it's all these people that are educating our politicians to the fact they've had it wrong for so long.

RAY HILL: Absolutely. You know, I probably have less at stake here because I've been completely drug and alcohol free for 55 years, plus some months, so this is not a personal issue to me.


RAY HILL: I am interested in this because I'm an American. And this is an American liberty issue, giving people the freedom to make choices in their lives that harm no one else, and probably do not harm themselves, but giving them the ability to have control over their lives and to stop our government from wasting its valuable resources on creating crime for which to punish people.

DEAN BECKER: All right, as we're wrapping up, I want to thank Amy Morales for her help in producing this show. I want to thank my good friend Ray Hill for his support and encouragement over the decades, and I want to remind you, dear listener, once again, that because of prohibition, you don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful.