Death of trustee emeritus Elmon T. Gray

Elon trustee emeritus Elmon T. Gray, 86, a Virginia political and business leader, died Sept. 27 at his home in Richmond, Va.

Elmon T. Gray, a leader in the lumber and banking industries and philanthropist, served on the Elon Board of Trustees from 1990-1999 before being named trustee emeritus. He served five terms in the Virginia Senate from 1972-1992, following in the footsteps of his father, Garland Gray, who retired from the state Senate in 1971 after 29 years in the legislature.

Gray of Waverly, Va., and his wife, Pamela, made a major gift to name the Ella Darden and Elmon Lee Gray Pavilion in honor of his grandparents. The pavilion, which houses the political science department and the Elon University Polling Center, opened in 2004.

Both Elmon T. Gray and Garland Gray were conservative Democrats — loyalists of the late U.S. Sen. Harry F. Byrd Sr., D-Va. — and both considered running for governor.

Elmon Gray’s heavily rural district included Prince George, Surry and Sussex counties, a part of Chesterfield County and the cities of Colonial Heights, Hopewell and Petersburg, a former tobacco center whose once-rundown Italianate high school was transformed into one of the jewels of Mr. Gray’s many philanthropies: the Appomattox Regional Governor’s School for the Arts and Technology.

In retirement, Gray keenly followed politics and lamented the sharply divided legislature’s inability to agree on long-term financing for roads and rails. Gray also was active in a family-led development project in eastern Henrico County.

Gray was chairman of the Senate Education and Health Committee and also served on the transportation and commerce and labor committees, assignments to which he brought his expertise in manufacturing and land development.

U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner, D-Va., a former governor, said Gray “helped build and sustain Southside’s economy over a generation.”

As a senator, Mr. Gray won protections for gasoline retailers threatened with the loss of their franchises by big oil companies. He was an advocate for the trucking industry, which hauled to market the bounty of rural Virginia, including timber raised and cut by Gray-owned companies.

Gray’s business interests occasionally paralleled his sports passion: horseracing. He was a member of a consortium of investors who worked unsuccessfully to persuade the state to locate a horse track in Hampton Roads after Virginians approved pari-mutuel racing in 1988.

Gray was a Navy veteran of World War II, interrupting his studies at VMI to serve on minesweepers in the South Pacific. He was a member of several corporate boards, including those of Universal Leaf Tobacco and the former Virginia Electric and Power Co., now Dominion Resources.

Gray was preceded in death by his wife of 62 years, Pamela. Survivors include a daughter, Katharine Taylor Gray of Richmond; two sons, Garland Gray II of Williamsburg and Bruce Burnside Gray of Richmond; two sisters, Mary Wingate Gray Stettinius of Richmond and Agnes Elizabeth Gray Duff of Fredericksburg; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

A graveside service for Senator Gray will be private; however, there will be a memorial service on Tuesday, Oct. 11 in the Virginia Military Chapel at 2 p.m.

Information courtesy the Richmond Times-Dispatch