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 April 10, 1925 to Beatrice Clifton Smith and Mason Ray. An Army veteran, he is  a graduate of Oberlin College and Boston University.

In the United States he sang opera with De Paur's Infantry, Karamu Theater, and the Cleveland Playhouse. However, his career began in 1957 in Europe, where he performed in operas, with orchestras, and on stage and television.

In 1974, he founded Black Theater Productions in Stuttgart, Germany, serving as its president until 1985. (See Blacks in Opera.)

Ray was a faculty member at the University of Music and Dramatic Arts Graz - Austria and a professor of voice at both the Peabody Conservatory of Music at Johns Hopkins University and the Howard University Department of Music.

Ray retired to Odenton, MD, where he died in July 3, 2019.

For more see Who's Who Among African Americans, 1985-2006; N. Sears, "Another high note for singer - Legacy Award crowns opera career filled with mentoring, teaching," Special to The Sun, 2/04/2007, Local section, p. 1G; his obituary at E.F. Boyd & Sons; and Interview with William Benjamin Ray, Sr. 8/11/2014, at the L. B. Nunn Center 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.

Item Relations

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)

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Ray, William Benjamin, Sr.,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed May 21, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-06-30 18:02:03