Zora Folley mural commemorates a Chandler icon - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Zora Folley mural commemorates a Chandler icon

December 24th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Zora Folley mural commemorates a Chandler icon

By Ken Sain
Managing Editor

Perhaps the most fitting part of the mural the City of Chandler commissioned to boxing legend Zora Folley is that it’s in Southside Village, not too far from where Folley lived.

It’s not quite a stone’s throw away, but “a good golf swing,” said Peter Bugg, the city’s visual arts coordinator.

The city dedicated the large mural on the east wall of FLO Yoga & Cycle, 71 E. Frye Road, on Dec. 6, paying tribute to the man who won a Purple Heart fighting in the Korean War, fought Muhammad Ali for the heavyweight boxing crown, and was the first Black person to serve on the Chandler City Council.

Folley’s family was on hand for the dedication.

“I really appreciate the City of Chandler for honoring my dad today for his achievements and what he did to put Chandler on the map,” said Zora Folley Jr.

Bugg said this is the first public arts project in the new historic district of Southside Village since he started working for the city five years ago.

The mural is titled “Legendary” and was done by west Phoenix artist Giovannie Dixon. It took him about a month to paint, covering the entire eastern wall of the FLO Yoga & Cycle business.

It cost $20,000. Bugg said that the Chandler Arts Commission paid for half of it, and the National Endowment for the Arts paid the other half.

Dixon said he had never heard of Zora Folley when he first learned of the project.

“It’s such a good story, you know, and I’m like, ‘How did I not hear about this guy before?’” Dixon said.

He said he has noticed a trend to highlight more Black Americans who have made significant contributions to communities in recent years. David, who is Black, credits the Black Lives Matter movement, which he said helped him make the decision to become a full-time artist.

“Black Lives Matters is happening,” Dixon said. “I’m not really wanting to be out marching, so I wanted to do my service by going to walls, and you know, actually putting up a lot more Black figures. And so that’s kind of was like my battle cry at the time.”

Folley was born in Dallas in 1931 and moved to Chandler in 1942. He lived in a house across the street from where Harris Park sits today. Folley Park, which is much larger, is about a quarter of a mile farther East.

He began boxing as part of the military, winning championships there. He rose to become a sergeant in the U.S. Army, earning five battle stars and the Purple Heart.

As a pro boxer he won 79, lost 11 and had six draws. He got his shot at the championship against Ali in 1967 when he was 34. Ali, a notorious trash talker to hype up his fights, complained before fighting Folley that he was such a gentleman that he was finding it hard to say anything bad about him.

Folley was appointed to City Council in 1972 but only served for a few months. He died that summer from a head injury at a Tucson motel swimming pool. Police ruled it accidental, but there has been some speculation about the circumstances that has persisted.

The owners of FLO Yoga & Cycle said they always wanted a mural on the side of their building, but didn’t know what to put on it. They said they are thrilled with the result.

“I’ve seen a lot of people come by taking pictures with the mural, already interacting with it,” said Eddie Davis, one of the owners of FLO. “And that’s exactly what we want … to make this whole community walkable and we’re proud that we can be a part of helping build everything.”