From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Ray, William Benjamin, Sr.

(born: April 10, 1925  -  died: July 3, 2019) 

William Benjamin Ray, Sr. was born in Lexington, KY, to Beatrice Clifton Smith and Mason Ray. He is an Army veteran and a graduate of Oberlin College and Boston University. In the United States, he was an opera singer with De Paur's Infantry, Karamu Theater, and Cleveland Playhouse. His career began in 1957 in Europe, where he performed in operas and orchestras and on stage and television. In 1974, he founded Black Theater Productions in Stuttgart, Germany, and served as its president until 1985. Ray is included in Blacks in Opera. He was a faculty member at the University of Music and Dramatic Arts Graz - Austria and a professor of voice at the Peabody Conservatory of Music at Johns Hopkins University and at the Howard University Department of Music. Ray is retired and lives in Odenton, Maryland, where he died in 2019. For more see Who's Who Among African Americans, 1985-2006; and N. Sears, "Another high note for singer - Legacy Award crowns opera career filled with mentoring, teaching," Special to The Sun, 02/04/2007, Local section, p. 1G. See also C. Campbell, "William Benjamin Ray Sr., opera star, civil rights activst, former Peabody Conservatory professor, dies at 94," The Baltimore Sun, 07/14/2019 (online); and Interview with William Benjamin Ray, Sr. 08/11/2014, at the L. B. Nunn Ctr. for Oral History, University of Kentucky Special Collections.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Fayette County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Lexington, Kentucky in Wikipedia.


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: Blacks in opera : an encyclopedia of people and companies, 1873-1993
NKAA Source: Who's who among African Americans
NKAA Source: The Sun (or Baltimore Sun) (newspaper)

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Ray, William Benjamin, Sr.,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed October 24, 2020,

Last modified: 2020-07-29 01:12:57