Grady Leonard Ray, 85, of Ridgeway, died Friday, November 22, 2019. Born in Camden, SC, on August 6, 1934, he was a son of the late Mendall Ross and Rebecca Parker Ray.
Mr. Ray, a three-sport star athlete nicknamed “the Camden Comet” in high school, scored a touchdown in the 1951 North-South All Star Game. He accepted a full scholarship to Newberry College, where he went on to excel in baseball and football and was the football team’s leading rusher and receiver for four years. He led all Palmetto State colleges in rushing yards in 1953 and starred in two bowl games, including a 183-yard, winning touchdown performance against Appalachian State in the Elks Bowl.
Upon completion of his playing career, Mr. Ray shifted his athletic pursuits to officiating and went on to distinguish himself for more than 30 years as a college football official. He began working games in the South Atlantic Conference before moving on to the Atlantic Coast Conference, Major Independents, and Southern Independents. He officiated the 1987 Orange Bowl game, the Tokyo Bowl in Japan, and the famous showdown between top-ranked Miami and second-ranked Notre Dame in 1988 (widely publicized as “Catholics vs. Convicts”).
Mr. Ray was inducted into the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999 and was a former president of that group. He was also a member of the Newberry College Hall of Fame and the South Carolina Officials Hall of Fame.
Owner of his own insurance agency for many years, he was a longtime member of the Columbia Civitans and served a term as president of that organization. Quick-witted and personable, Mr. Ray built countless lasting and valued friendships over the course of his life.
He is preceded in death by his beloved wife of 43 years, Harriette Harvey Ray. Survivors include his sons, Rock Ray (Sherri), of Blythewood and Hal Ray (Melissa), of Columbia; his daughters, Cindy Wade (Mark), of Columbia, Ginny Dover (Mike), of Blythewood; nine grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and a sister, Betty Kirkley (Hugh).
The funeral service for Mr. Ray will be held at 12:30 p.m., Monday, November 25th, at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Columbia, with Rev. Dr. Tony Metze officiating. Burial will follow the service in Elmwood Cemetery. The family will receive friends prior to the service beginning at 11 o’clock, in the Good Shepherd Room at the Church.
The family would like to thank the staff of The Crossings in Columbia for their loving care and support.
Memorials may be made to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 1715 Bull Street, Columbia, SC, 29201; or to Newberry College, 2100 College St., Newberry, SC 29108.