Friday, November 22, 2013

Richard B. Ray Papers Open for Research

Congressman Ray and his wife, Barbara
sporting “Ray is Ready!” campaign buttons
circa 1982.
The Richard B. Russell Library is pleased to announce that the Richard B. Ray Papers are now open for research.

Ray's papers illuminate national politics of the 1980s and early 1990s, particularly President Reagan's tax reform proposals, Cold War defense spending, ebbing support for aid to the Nicaraguan Contras, the Persian Gulf War, and protecting the environment.  As a representative for the third district of Georgia, his papers also give voice to the concerns of his constituents: funding for Fort Benning and Robins Air Force Base, the backbone of the district's economy; protection for the textile industry and other business interests; anger over wasteful government spending; opposition to gun control; and support for funding Social Security and benefits for military retirees. Other concerns were more personal, such as a letter writing campaign in support of funding for the U.S.D.A. School Nutrition Program in 1986, annoyances over local transportation infrastructure, and staunch opposition to a proposed excise tax on beer in 1990. Ray's papers encompass the kinds of materials typical for a member of Congress, including constituent mail, committee and legislative files, press files and speeches, office files, and photographs.

Congressman Ray campaigning in Columbus, Georgia
with Ohio Senator John Glenn, 1982.
Ray got his start in national politics when he went to Washington in 1972 to act as the administrative assistant to U.S. Senator Sam Nunn, where he directed a staff of over 40. Prior to that, Ray's political experience was as a city council member (1962-1964) and then mayor (1964-1970) of Perry, Georgia. After 10 years of service to Nunn, Ray was well-positioned to win the seat for the third district of Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1983, a position vacated by the retiring Jack Brinkley.  He easily won re-election to the next four Congresses, even running unopposed in 1986 and 1988, and served until January 3, 1993. 

Ray made his most significant contributions as a member of the House Armed Services Committee, notably on the Congress Special Panel on Arms Control and Disarmament (1983-1987) and as chairman of the Armed Services Environmental Restoration Panel (1989-1993) charged with investigating environmental hazards at military bases, particularly with the safe and cost-effective disposal of toxic waste.  Ray also became the committee's expert on NATO air base defenses after visiting over 20 facilities in Western Europe.

Additionally, Ray served on the Committee on Small Business, supporting rural development and federal crop insurance programs for farmers and opposing federal regulations he expected would inhibit small businesses.  As a staunch fiscal conservative, he was also a regular supporter of a balanced budget amendment and a cap on government spending.

A lifelong Georgian, Richard Belmont Ray was born in Fort Valley, Georgia in 1927.  He graduated from Crawford County High School in 1944 and then joined the Navy, serving until 1946 on a destroyer in the Pacific Theater. After his military service, Ray farmed for a few years before embarking on a career in pest control, remaining in that field until 1972.  He married Barbara Elizabeth Giles in 1948 and they had three children: Barbara, Charles, and Alan.  Ray died in Macon, Georgia, on May 29, 1999.

Post by Adriane Hanson, Processing and Electronic Records Archivist

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