By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
There is another prominent figure who has not forgotten Izora Hill.
His name is Cloves Campbell. At the time he clashed with Izora, he was the most powerful, visible African-American politician in Arizona.
A former public affairs executive with Arizona Public Service Company and the current publisher of the Arizona Informant newspaper, Campbell served in the Arizona House and Senate from 1962 until 1972. He was more than a little annoyed when the Democrats picked Izora as a delegate to the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago. He was so annoyed he led a walkout of nine black delegates at the state convention that preceded the Chicago event. He told reporters at the time that the delegate chosen by party leaders, Izora Hill, was not known by or acceptable to him.
He had not been asked to join the delegation, incidentally; today, he says he didn't particularly want to attend the event.
Animosity flared up again after Izora returned from the Chicago convention and decided to run against Campbell for the state Senate.
She let everyone know she didn't think Campbell helped black people. Back then, she called him a yes man for the utility that employed him.
The Campbell-Hill feud lives today.
"Cloves just cared about Arizona Public Service, Arizona Public Service," she says.
"She never did anything for the community," Campbell retorts. "All she did was have a bunch of kids."
To this day, Campbell suspects the Democrats paid Izora to run so she would split the black vote. He says his fellow party members didn't like him because he pointed out how the party had failed its black constituency.
"That's a bunch of baloney," says former county Democratic chairman John Carney, who recalls Izora as "one of the hardest working Democrats around."
Campbell won the race, then lost in 1972 to newcomer Alfredo Gutierrez.
Izora continued volunteering for the Democrats as a deputy registrar in Rainbow Valley until she was 79 years old. She debated taking on that task again after she saw Congressman J.D. Hayworth on television, whom she would like to see defeated. But she finally decided against taking on the registrar job because her kids tell her she's got to start slowing down.
When Izora Hill first visited Rainbow Valley in the 1930s, she had no intention of opening a home for the mentally ill.
She dreamed of building a whorehouse.
Back in those days, she says, houses of ill repute operated openly in Phoenix, and the cops just looked the other way.
Although she was never a prostitute, Izora recognized the success of such enterprises; the notion of becoming a madam appealed to her. She planned to buy some property near the Gila River, make an artificial lake for fishing, set up a barbecue, some cabins, a dance hall. She'd construct a road so customers could exit out the back way if their wives came looking.
Her plans were foiled in the 1940s, when the county sheriff started cracking down on hookers. She decided against the idea. She didn't buy her Rainbow Valley property until the 1960s, when she got the idea of running a group home.
The home has seen as many odd and dangerous characters as any whorehouse. But Izora doesn't see them as threatening.
Izora treats her charges more like illogical children than people with serious, often disturbing mental problems. She seems to have no fear of the men, even though she has counted rapists, murderers and child molesters among her residents.
Those who don't follow house rules--not making their beds, for instance--have their cigarettes taken away.
The few residents who have, through the years, attempted to act out sexually are isolated from the others until Izora gets a doctor to prescribe a drug she says reduces the sex drive. But mostly, she says, residents "have been without sex for so long they don't even think about it."
"These men," she says, "are harmless."
She believes her years of experience give her a better understanding of the chronically mentally ill than the parole officers and social workers who occasionally visit the home.
Although she regularly lashes social workers with her biting tongue, the state has reprimanded Izora only three times in the past 25 years. The deficiencies were minor--leaving burritos uncovered in the refrigerator, having dirty or torn furniture in the rec room.
Renz Jennings, chairman of the Arizona Corporation Commission, recalls that when he was a state legislator in the late 1970s, he was invited by state officials to go on a "surprise visit" to a supervisory care home in his district.
"We were going on this trip with the sense we were going to bust somebody," he says.
When he arrived at the home, Jennings was surprised to find the owner was Izora Hill, whom he had known when she was a precinct committeewoman in Phoenix in the 1960s.
"There were alcoholics and mentally ill people walking around in this great setting, and the [state] people were saying the kitchen wasn't quite clean enough," he remembers. "What I saw was a great setup for these people who live in their own little worlds."
"These people felt part of something," he says. "Their lives had dignity. Even then, the place had a ramshackle quality to it, but it was humane. And it was sufficiently clean. I was impressed by this woman. She took a thankless job out in the middle of nowhere and made something out of it. She impressed me as a woman of substance.