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

Ray, Albert Burton, Jr.

(born: October 27, 1921  -  died: July 12, 1986) 

Albert Burton Ray, Jr., a forgotten champion tennis player, was born in Lexington, KY. He was also a politician in Chicago, IL later in his life. Currently, there is not a composite written history of his life. The most accurate records about his tennis career will be found in newspaper articles. One of the early articles was the 1938 newspaper snippet when Albert Ray was Junior Champion of the Bluegrass Tennis Tournament (singles). [He was also the 1937 winner.] The 1938 snippet was hidden away on the back pages among want ads and auction notices.

Each year since at least 1916, the Bluegrass Tennis Tournament had taken place in Lexington at Woodland Park. In coverage of the tournament, there is no mention of it being segregated or that Albert Ray was African American, but within the "Colored Notes" snippet it is mentioned that Albert Ray, Jr. competed in the Bluegrass Tennis Tournament held for African Americans at Douglas Park. Albert Ray, Jr. also won the Junior Tennis Trophy at the South End Lexington Recreational Games that were held at Douglas Park and Charles Young Park in late August 1938.   

Albert Ray, Jr. was the Senior Champion of the Bluegrass Tennis Tournament for 1938-39, which was noted when he participated in the Louisville (KY) Negro Tri-State Championship Tennis Tournament held in August 1939. In the first round of the Louisville tournament, Ray defeated Dr. J. T. Anderson. As the tournament progressed to the next levels, Ray was defeated by C. H. Parrish and by Clarence Rice. Albert Ray is referred to in the Louisville newspaper as the "Lexington Champ."

In 1940, Ray was a college student at Hampton Institute [now Hampton University], where he strengthened his game and became a national champion tennis player. He ranked among the best 10 African American collegiate tennis players behind James McDaniels at Prairie View. McDaniels held the top spot in the Negro National Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) men's tennis rankings.

Ray also continued to compete at home in Lexington. In 1940, he was again the city champion in tennis and the following year he defeated William Walls for the Lexington Men's Single Tennis Championship. Albert Ray was ranked 5th in the 1941 annual poll of leading African American intercollegiate tennis players and was selected by the CIAA as the most valuable tennis player for 1941. At the end of the college tennis season, Albert Ray, Jr. was the Midwestern Intercollegiate Tennis Champion. He won the title when he defeated Jimmy McDaniel, the two-time champion from Xavier University. 

In 1942, Albert B. Ray, Jr. was considered one of the best African American tennis players in the United States. He was a candidate as one of the top eight African American tennis players for a planned exhibition tour team that would travel around the United States to raise money for the Army Relief Fund. The event was proposed by Negro National Tennis Association Chairman R. B. Ritchie. In June 1942, the exhibition games in Kentucky took place at Chickasaw tennis courts in Louisville. It was the opening of the tennis season in Louisville. Albert Ray and his teammates played against tennis players from Lexington and Louisville.

It was also in 1942 when Ray joined the U.S. Army. According to his registration record in Ancestry, Albert B. Ray, Jr. was 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighed 157 pounds. He was stationed at Flying Field at Tuskegee and was promoted to corporal in December 1942. He married Wilneeta Jones in Detroit, MI in 1943. Albert Ray, Jr. was honorably discharged from the Army in November of 1945 with the rank of sergeant.

After his military career, Ray settled in Chicago, IL, where he was an electrical engineer and politician. In 1950 he ran unsuccessfully for state senator. In 1955 he was hired as a trucker with the Chicago and North Western Railroad. In 1958, 1960, and 1962, he was again unsuccessful in his campaign for the state senate seat.

Albert Burton Ray, Jr. died in Chicago in 1986. He is buried at Camp Nelson National Cemetery in Jessamine County, KY. He was the son of Rosanna Virginia Smith Ray and Albert B. Ray, Sr. His parents are buried in Cove Haven Cemetery in Lexington.

Sources: "Colored Notes: Results of the Bluegrass Tennis Tournament ...," Lexington Sunday Herald-Leader, 8/14/1938, p. 15, column 7; "Colored Notes: Albert Ray ...," The Lexington Leader, 8/19/1938, p. 14; "Colored Notes: Albert Ray Jr. won the 1938 Bluegrass Tennis Tournament." The Lexington Sunday Herald-Leader, 8/21/1938, p. 13;  "Colored Notes," The Lexington Sunday Herald-Leader, 8/28/1938, p. 34; "Colored Notes: Albert B. Ray, Jr. ...," The Lexington Leader, 8/7/1939, p. 10, column 6; Victor K. Perry, "Kean gains 3 titles in tennis meet," The Courier-Journal, 8/18/1939, Section 2, p. 3; "Dr. Anderson wins in Negro tennis meet," The Courier-Journal, 8/25/1939, Section 2, p. 9; "Lexington champ bows in Tri-State," The Courier-Journal, 8/26/1939, Section 2, p. 3; "Ranks tennis players," Lexington Sunday Herald-Leader, 8/25/1940, p. 5; "Colored Notes," Sunday Herald-Leader, 8/24/1941, p. 9; "Colored Notes: Tennis results," Sunday Herald-Leader, 8/31/1941, p. 11; "Lexingtonian is fifth among Negro net stars," The Lexington Leader, 9/15/1941, p. 6; "Lexington Negro named top tennis player," The Lexington Leader, 2/6/1942, p. 7; "Lexington tennis player named for tour team," The Lexington Leader, 3/19/1942, p. 19; Victor K. Perry, "Ray to play in exhibitions," The Courier-Journal, 6/18/1942, Section 2, p. 5; Victor K. Perry, "Tennis billed at Chickasaw," The Courier-Journal, 6/21/1942, Section 4, p. 4; "Colored Notes: Mr. and Mrs. A. B. Ray ...," The Lexington Herald, 12/29/1942, p. 7; "Colored Notes: Sgt. Albert B. Ray, Jr. ...," The Lexington Leader, 11/26/1945, p. 9; "Obituaries: Albert B. Ray, Jr.," Lexington Herald-Leader, 7/16/1986, p. 24; Michigan Marriage Record County File #617678, State File #297851 (Ancestry); "State Senator" under the headline "Swanson heads G.O.P. list for assembly seat," Chicago Daily Tribune, 1/18/1950, p. 11; Chicago and North Western Railroad Employment Record Records (Ancestry); "Gardner opposed" under the headline "See G.O.P. fight in 23rd District," Chicago Sunday Tribune, 3/23/1958, Part 3, p2; "Has 3 opponents" under the headline "29 Bid for 18 jobs in Springfield," Chicago Sunday Tribune, 3/20/1960, Part 3, p. 5; "Lone hurdle in 22D, 23D is primary," Chicago Sunday Tribune, 3/18/1962, Part 8, p. 1; and Albert Burton Ray, Jr. at Find A Grave.

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“Ray, Albert Burton, Jr.,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed May 26, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-10-12 01:53:08