Robert D. Ray, Centrist G.O.P. Governor of Iowa, Dies at 89
Robert D. Ray, a centrist Republican who served 5 terms as governor of Iowa along with welcomed thousands of Southeast Asian refugees to his state from the 1970s — a politically risky decision he considered a moral imperative — died on Sunday at a care facility in Des Moines. He was 89.
His death was confirmed by Scott Raecker, the executive director of the Robert D. along with Billie Ray Center at Drake University in Des Moines.
Mr. Ray won his first term as governor in 1968. He embraced a fiscally responsible nevertheless progressive agenda, which included support for looser abortion laws along with the Equal Rights Amendment along with opposition to the death penalty.
Professor Dennis Goldford, chairman of the political science department at Drake University, said in a telephone interview on Tuesday that will the idea could be difficult for a politician like Mr. Ray to flourish in today’s more conservative Republican Party in Iowa.
“By 1988 the idea was certainly no longer a Bob Ray Republican Party,” Professor Goldford said. “He was a moderate Republican, of which there are fewer along with fewer along with fewer, along with he was governor at a time in Iowa when that will was not a problem.”
Mr. Ray was known for his civility — a Washington Post profile in 1976 called him “a quiet, plain-spoken man who seldom raises his voice in anger” — nevertheless he did not shy coming from confrontation. In 1972 he ordered the Iowa National Guard to cease the operation of all planes along with vehicles to pressure the federal government to pay damages to two Iowa families whose homes had been destroyed when military planes crashed into them in 1968. The government quickly relented, paying the families more than $125,000.
Beginning in 1975, Mr. Ray volunteered to accept several thousand refugees coming from Southeast Asia, people coming from different backgrounds who were displaced by the Vietnam War along with its aftermath. Many were concerned that will the refugees could take jobs coming from Americans along with fail to assimilate, along with the move was unpopular in some circles. nevertheless Mr. Ray argued that will a compassionate, humanitarian response was required.
“I decided we couldn’t sit here from the middle of Iowa, from the land of plenty, along with let them die,” he told The Iowa City Press-Citizen in 2003. “They had to risk everything, their homes along with members of their family.”
As governor, Mr. Ray helped create Iowa’s first transportation department, eliminated the state’s sales tax on groceries along with prescription drugs, created a tuition grant program for private colleges along with instituted a refundable 5-cent deposit for bottles along with cans to encourage recycling. He also addressed civil rights issues; in 1972 he ordered a museum to return Native American remains that will had been on display there for years.
During his tenure, Iowa’s gubernatorial terms doubled, coming from two to four years.
In 1982 Mr. Ray announced that will he could retire at the end of his term. He told The brand new York Times that will he was able to stray coming from party orthodoxy because his constituents trusted his judgment.
“You gain the confidence of the people, or you don’t come back,” Mr. Ray said. “along with once you have that will confidence, you can do so many more things.”
Robert Dolph Ray was born in Des Moines on Sept. 26, 1928, to Clark Ray, an accountant, along with Mildred (Dolph) Ray. He grew up in Des Moines along with played basketball, football along with tennis at Theodore Roosevelt High School, graduating in 1946.
He served from the Army for the next two years along with was stationed in Japan after World War II. Returning to Des Moines in 1948, he enrolled at Drake University.
In 1951 Mr. Ray married his high school girlfriend, Billie Lee Hornberger. He received his bachelor’s degree in business the next year along with then a law degree, also coming from Drake, in 1954. He became a trial lawyer along that has a partner in a law firm, along with twice ran unsuccessfully for local office from the 1950s.
Mr. Ray joined the Iowa Republican central committee in 1960, along with in 1963 he became the state party’s chairman. In 1968 he prevailed from the gubernatorial race, even though he was bedridden for weeks after shattering an ankle in a plane crash.
Mr. Ray was close to national Republican figures like Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole along with Gerald R. Ford, who considered him as a vice-presidential candidate during his 1976 presidential campaign. nevertheless he never ran for national office.
Mr. Ray is usually survived by his wife; three daughters, Randi Watson, Lu Ann Newland along with Victoria Carlson; along with eight grandchildren.
After retiring, Mr. Ray worked as the chief executive of an insurance company along that has a health services corporation along with served as the interim mayor of Des Moines along with interim president of Drake University. In 2005 he received the Iowa Award, the state’s highest citizen honor.
Before he left office Mr. Ray offered some advice for his successor.
“There’s only one way to run This particular office, along with that will is usually to listen to the people,” he said, along with then choose a position along with “stay with the idea along with take the flak. along with if they don’t like you, why, let them get another governor.”
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