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Book by ASU journalist next on discussion agenda

"Zora Folley: The Distinguished Life and Mysterious Death of a Gentleman Boxer"
March 05, 2015

The ASU Book Group will meet from noon to 1 p.m., March 25, to discuss “Zora Folley: The Distinguished Life and Mysterious Death of a Gentleman Boxer,” by Marshall Terrill, information specialist director with ASU Public Affairs at the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus.

The meeting will be in room 316 of the Durham Language and Literature Building on the Tempe campus. The ASU Book Group is open to all ASU faculty, staff and students, as well as the public.

“Zora Folley” is about the mysterious death of Chandler heavyweight contender Zora Folley, who died in a Tucson hotel in July 1972.

“Some say it was murder, some say it was a mob hit, others claim it was a freak accident,” said Terrill, who spent close to 10 years researching the death.

Folley, who lived in Chandler, Arizona for a majority of his life, was a top heavyweight contender in the late 1950s and 1960s. Folley’s career culminated with the loss of a heavyweight title match against Muhammad Ali in March 1967 in New York’s Madison Square Garden.

His life was a testament to his impeccable character, and Chandler has named a city street, park and community pool after him, Terrill said.

“Folley was a decorated Korean War veteran; a consummate fighter in the ring; a role model for youth; a seemingly happily married father of nine children; a successful businessman; Chandler’s first black city council member; and the city’s most famous son.

“This book was originally a three-part newspaper series I wrote in 2003. I was haunted by the words of Zora’s son Robert, who told me, ‘One day the truth will come out,’” Terrill said. “But how was the truth supposed to come out if no one was actively in search of the truth? Closure is an overused word, but it became my Great White Whale.”

Terrill took it upon himself to finally answer the decades-long mystery of Folley’s death at a Tucson motel. He did so by uncovering Folley’s long vanquished police and autopsy reports, which he unearthed after years of searching. He also interviewed more than a dozen Chandler residents, as well as an eyewitness who was there the night of Folley’s death.

“Zora Folley” is Terrill’s 18th book. It is available exclusively as an e-book on For more information about the book group, which is sponsored by the Department of English, contact Judith Smith at

The book for April, “In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods,” by new English faculty member Matt Bell, will be discussed April 29, in room 316 of the Durham Language and Literature Building.