Ray to be honored as Veteran of Year


Bill Ray has been named the  Hattiesburg Veteran of the Year for 2019-2020 by the City of Hattiesburg Veteran’s Committee.

He will be recognized at the annual Veteran’s Day Program at 11 a.m. Nov. 11 at the Veteran’s Memorial Park in downtown Hattiesburg. The program is open to the public and will follow the Veteran’s Day Parade, which starts at 10 a.m. at the Hardy Street Baptist Church.

Ray served in the United States Marine Corps from 1955-1959 and was honorably discharged as a lance corporal after serving with the 2nd Marine Air Wing located at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, that supported forward-deployed units in Vietnam.  His other major assignments included Beirut, Lebanon and the Caribbean.

A Hattiesburg resident since 1977, Ray  began his lifelong journey of selfless service and giving to this community, which continues today.

In the 40-plus years that he has lived in the Hub City he has distinguished himself many times over as a true servant-leader. He is being recognized and honored as the Hattiesburg Veteran of the Year 2019 for his sustained contributions to the city of Hattiesburg and the surrounding Pine Belt communities. 

Ray has served as chair of the Hattiesburg Convention Commission, president of the Mississippi Hospital Association, and a regent for the Mississippi Affiliates of the American College of Healthcare Executives. 

He currently serves as a Tri-Chair on The Area Development Partnership’s Pinnacle Campaign Leadership Council, which is a five-year private sector fundraising initiative to underwrite an economic and community development program in Greater Hattiesburg from 2016-2020. Pinnacle will provide funding for economic development services, to assist expanding local businesses, recruiting right-fit companies and connecting all major facets of the community, as well as keeping Greater Hattiesburg a premiere health and wellness retirement community in Mississippi.

Ray is presently the president and chief executive officer of the Asbury Foundation of Hattiesburg, Incorporated and has served in this capacity since 1999.

Established in 1984, the Asbury Foundation is a private grant-making organization that strengthens education and health in the Pine Belt and across Mississippi.

When Ray moved to Hattiesburg, he was the president and CEO of Wesley Health System. When the hospital was sold in 1997, $35 million was invested in the Asbury Foundation as the surviving not-for-profit corporation. Through the use of these funds and his personal leadership, he has been instrumental in supporting and accomplishing the following achievements:

• Led the project to obtain and erect the U.S. and military service flags displayed at the entryway to the Hub City on Highway 49 at the Hattiesburg Convention Center.  This display serves as a reminder that Hattiesburg is a military-friendly community.

• Spearheaded the financial support to William Carey University for numerous brick and mortar projects. WCU is rapidly becoming Mississippi’s premier university for training and graduating professionals in various healthcare professions. This distinction is supported in large part by Ray’s continuing commitment to the health and well-being of all south Mississippians. 

• Spearheaded the financial support to the University of Southern Mississippi for numerous brick and mortar projects to include the recently completed Asbury School of Nursing. He also was supportive of the Osher Life-long Learning Institute. This office provides courses for community members over the age of 50 to contribute their expertise and career skills to others while enhancing their life-long learning journey. Having this Institute in Hattiesburg further distinguishes the Hub City as a retirement-friendly community.

Ray was pivotal in providing financial support for the renovation of the R3SM (Recover, Rebuild, and Restore Southeast Mississippi) building located at 301 Buschman Street in downtown Hattiesburg. This renovation makes it possible for volunteers from throughout the United States and Canada to have a comfortable, sanitary and safe place to stay when supporting the Pine Belt community during various disaster recovery efforts.

Ray currently serves on the following boards: vice-chairman of the Board of Trustees at William Carey University and the board of directors of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Pine Belt. Since 2002 he has served as chairman of the Hattiesburg-Laurel Regional Airport Authority Board.

Ray was conferred the honorary degree Doctor of Humane Letters by William Carey University on May 16, 2015. 

He is married to Charlotte (Chalie) Carroll Ray, Miss Mississippi 1962, and they have two daughters, Robin D’Nev Martin, wife of Trae Martin, residing in Hickory, N.C., and Jennifer Keri Galey, wife of Roman Galey, of Hattiesburg. The Rays have eight grandchildren.

For additional information contact Colonel (Retired) Sheila Varnado, Chair, Hattiesburg Veteran’s Selection Committee at varnados@comcast.net or (601) 606-5209.