Folley Street

Zora Bell Folley was born in Dallas, Texas in 1931 and moved with his family when he was ten years old to Chandler, Arizona in the early 1940’s. He attended Ocotillo School many miles south of town, as all of the black children of the area did in those days, and graduated from the eighth grade. Folley’s boxing career suddenly took off just after he joined the U.S. Army in 1949 where he also received his high school diploma and a Golden Gloves heavyweight boxing title before being sent off to serve in the Korean War. When he returned to the states, he began boxing again and won the U.S. Army Worldwide Boxing Championship in Ft. Monmouth, New Jersey in 1953. He was soon after discharged from the Army and moved to Los Angeles where he began his professional career.

Folley’s career started off with a bang earning him seventeen straight wins and a steady climb up the World Boxing Association rankings. By 1961, he was appearing in nationally televised fights, and the people of Chandler watched as the town's now famous resident beat every opponent he came into the ring with, and by 1967 was ranked as the number one contender for the world heavyweight title. The thirty-three year old fighter had an outstanding record of seventy-five wins, which included 44 knockouts, 7 losses, and 3 ties. Back in his hometown of Chandler, the street he lived on while growing up was re-named Folley Street.

In February of 1967 it was announced that Folley would have the opportunity to battle for the title. He would be up against Muhammad Ali, formerly Cassius Clay, at Madison Square Garden in New York City to fight for the heavyweight title. Folley immediately began a rigorous training schedule of long days and made plans for his trip to New York City. On March 1, the Chandler Jaycees sponsored a Folley appreciation dinner at the Garden Room of the San Marcos Hotel. After a brief tribute by the San Francisco Giants third baseman Jim Davenport, Folley was wished the best of luck. A few days later he was on his way to a New York resort to prepare for the upcoming fight.

On March 22, Folley climbed into the ring to face Ali. Folley had the fight of his career, but Ali was able to overtake him and was knocked out in the seventh round. The contender returned to his home in Chandler where he continued to be a leader for the black people of Chandler.

In 1972, Folley ran for a chair on the Chandler City Council but could not come up with the required amount of votes. While his first attempt to become a city councilman failed, he was appointed later on in April of the same year. His run with the city government did not last long though as a tragic poolside accident in a Tucson pool took his life. He died on July 7,1972. State dignitaries and prominent athletes joined with the hundreds of Chandler residents at his funeral service. The city paid tribute to its favorite son by naming a new park in his honor.

By Julian Laurean & Jessica Crowner