Ray Hill, former Texas convicted felon (for a series of burglaries) and now creator, host, and producer of The Prison Show, reaching prisoners in Texas jails. He's the unofficial Mayor of Montrose. He is the voice and advocate of the incarcerated. And he's gay, currently unattached and reasonably available.
Ray is a native Houstonian. Graduated from Galena Park public schools; attended Steven F. Austin State University, University of Houston, and Tulane University in New Orleans; and currently holds no degrees. He came out as a gay man to his family and at Galena Park High School in 1958 - a courageous move considering that Ward, June, Wally and the Beaver represented the model American family at the time.
In 1970, Ray's luck as a gentleman-burglar ran out, and in November he went to jail. Time passed. Slo-o-o-wly.
In March 1975, Ray was released and found himself the host of the first openly gay radio show "Wilde N Stein." The show later evolved into "Gay and Lesbian Voices," and in 2001 was renamed "Queer Voices." The program is currently hosted and produced by Jack Valinski.
In 1980, Ray went on the air with his first Prison Show, initially to create a community that included both sides of the fence. In those early days, the two-hour show was beamed out strictly for inmates. Hill passed the time quizzing officials and imparting news about the prison system.
The first on-air call went out over the KPFT airwaves - literally by accident - about eight months after the show aired the first time. During his show, Ray got a call from a mother, stranded on the highway, where she had wrecked her car on the way to see her son in prison. "Tell him I'll come back when I have the money," she asked Ray, almost in tears. Rather than act as a mere relay, Ray hooked the receiver to the microphone so the distraught mother could tell her son directly.
The call-in hour for inmate families had begun, and the calls haven't stopped since. For families who live far from the prisons, a few minutes on Hill's show can be crucial. Family contact like this brings inmates more than comfort. It has proven to be a stabilizing influence that lowers the rate of recidivism and prison violence.
Although inmates in Texas can receive phone calls only on very rare occasions, the radio waves keep them connected to the outside world, and thanks to Ray and his crew, connected to their families as well.
The Prison Show can be heard in about 20 Texas prisons throughout Walker, Brazoria, Galveston, Fort Bend, Liberty, Montgomery and Travis counties.
One of the most rewarding results of the show is that it's catching on around the world. Daniel Siino from France Amnesty International contacted Ray in 1984. A year later "Sunday Telephone" aired for the first time in Europe.
France now currently has eight stations, the Netherlands and Switzerland, each air a similar show on one of their stations.
Being host and producer of the Prison Show is just one aspect of Ray Hill. Over the years, he has helped rehabilitate individual prisoners. He speaks to inmates in programs, such as AA/DA, in what he calls his "recovery mission." And he helps out the families of inmates with applications for welfare, food stamps, social security, Medicaid and just plain moral support.
Ray has been drug-free and sober since January 4, 1959. And in support of "his" prisoners, Ray quit smoking in 1994 when the smoking ban in government buildings, including jails and prisons, became law. "I quit smoking so I could experience firsthand what kind of frustrations my guys had to go through."
About his past lovers, Ray said:
I have had six wonderful men in my life; a famous drag queen: Tiffany Jones (Kenneth Whitehead); a famous hair dresser: Bob Oliphant; a would-be cop: Fred Paez; a country boy from Lufkin: Dale Sweat; a Lutheran minister: The Rev. Kent Naasz; and Patricio Domingo Bravo an expatriate from Chile. Only Patricio survives. Tiffany, Kent and Bob died of AIDS; Dale was murdered by a burglar, Fred was assassinated by a police officer.