Ronald Dudley Ray was born in Hazard, Kentucky on October 30, 1942, to Robert Wallace Ray and Josephine McKay Jones Ray. During World War ll, his father joined the Navy serving as a pharmacist mate and Josephine and their young son moved to Louisville to be close to her mother in the Germantown area. Ronnie, as he was known then, attended Waggoner High School, where he met his life-long friend Charlie Brown. In 1964, Ron received a B.A., from Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, and a his juris doctorate graduating Magna Cum Laude, in 1971, from the University of Louisville School of Law, where he was Salutatorian in his class.
Ron entered Centre College as an enlisted Marine and served in the PLC program accepting an officer’s commission at graduation in 1964. Lieutenant Ray was introduced to jungle warfare as one of the first Peace officers ashore for the evacuation of civilians during the Dominican Republic Crisis in 1967. He later served as an Infantry Battalion Advisor to the South Vietnamese Marine Corps in the Republic of Vietnam during 1967 and 68, participating in combat operations throughout South Vietnam including major joint operations during the TET Offensive, Hue City, Operation Coronado II and Paddington. During his active military service, Colonel Ray was awarded two Silver Stars for gallantry, a Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V”, the Purple Heart, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry and the Vietnamese Honor Medal.
Major Ray resigned his active commission in 1969 and joined the Marine Corps Reserve, where he held a variety of command and staff positions, including command of combat and combat service support units in Louisville and Ft. Knox, Kentucky. In 1974, he was certified as a Staff Judge Advocate, and graduated with honors from the Naval Justice School in Newport, Rhode Island, and attended many senior level military schools, the NATO Defense College in England and the National Defense University. His last Marine Corps assignment was as the Deputy Director for Field Operations for the Division of History and Museums of the Marine Corps. Colonel Ray retired from the Marine Corps Reserve on June 30, 1994 and has contributed to a history of the Vietnam War.
Colonel Ray was a Partner with Greenebaum, Doll & McDonald for 15 years, and until 1986 headed the Labor and Employee Relations section of the firm. Colonel Ray was Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Louisville School of Law for many years.
In 1984, during the Reagan administration, Colonel Ray was appointed the first Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Guard/Reserve) in Washington, D.C. This appointment included responsibility for staffing and organizing a national management structure for exercising policy guidance and overall supervision of the 1,800,000 members of the nation’s National Guard & Reserve Forces. In 1985, he received the National Eagle Award from the National Guard Association for exemplary public service while in the Pentagon.
To remember and never forget the last full measure of devotion of the more than 1058 Kentuckians that never returned from Vietnam, Colonel Ray founded and served as the first Chairman of the Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, which privately raised more than one million dollars to build and dedicate, in 1988, a unique granite sundial as a memorial to Vietnam veterans in Frankfort, Kentucky.
In 1990, President George Herbert Walker Bush appointed Ray to the American Battle Monuments Commission which is responsible for commemorating the service of the American Armed Forces through the erection of memorials and maintaining cemeteries both here and abroad. In 1992, Colonel Ray was appointed by the President to the Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces.
Colonel Ray left the business of law at age 50 and began practicing a unique blend of law and history from his farm on a Kentucky hillside. He was the lead counsel in the three cases brought in 2000 by the ACLU against Kentucky’s Pulaski and McCreary County Judges and Harlan County Schools seeking to suppress or censor the public posting of official and historical American political documents including: an excerpt from the Declaration of Independence; the Preamble to the Kentucky Constitution; America’s national motto “In God We Trust;” a copy of the February 2, 1983, Congressional Record, which contains the text of the Ten Commandments; a proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln; a proclamation by President Ronald Reagan; and the Mayflower Compact.
In 2009 Colonel Ray joined with 96 Kentucky State Senators and 35 State Representatives, The Family Trust Foundation of Kentucky and The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky to stop the advancement of two cases brought against Kentucky’s Homeland Security Law by the American Atheists, Inc. and the ACLU seeking to remove the name of “Almighty God” from Kentucky’s Homeland Security Law.
Colonel Ronald D. Ray was selected for Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in America Law. He has appeared on multiple national television news broadcasts including: ABC World News Tonight, Larry King Live, Hannity and Combs, Fox and Friends, The Today Show, Fox News, Crossfire, and a number of national radio broadcasts.
Colonel Ronald Ray has had an active and vigorous life amassing a large history library, writing and speaking on public and Constitutional issues of national interest such as America’s Christian Heritage, “Exemplary Conduct” in the U.S. Armed Forces, the true relationship between Christianity and Politics, the Second Amendment, the history of the Vietnam War and MIA/POWs, and a variety of defense and current policy subjects.
In 1989, Colonel Ray married Eunice Van Winkle Ray and enjoyed the love of children and grandchildren on their farm in Kentucky.
Colonel Ray died from his wounds at home on July 6, 2020. Colonel Ray spent the last ten years of his life struggle from his last battle of Vietnam. In 1967, he sustained Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) which presented 40 years later as dementia, the source of a decade-long debilitating, diminishing, and imprisoning neurological decline. Colonel Ray led the effort to pass legislation to permit Kentucky vets with TBI and PTSD to have access to hyperbaric oxygen treatments in local hospitals. The Colonel learned that TBI and PTSD are literally wounds in the brain and the meds and psychological therapies may be helpful, but oxygen is much more promising. Colonel’s injuries were long ago and his brain and the neurological system had aged considerably by the time his diagnosis was delivered by the Amen Clinic. In 2018, the “Colonel Ronald D. Ray Traumatic Brain Injury Act” was passed and signed into law by Governor Matt Bevin. This legislation opened the chambers to veterans suffering from TBI and PTSD which before were closed to them. Colonel Ray’s brain and spinal cord were donated to Boston University’s study on brain injuries at its CTE Center.