Former county engineer dies at 88
By CHRISTINE BOATWRIGHT / Staff Writer
Remembered as a Marine, outdoorsman and “stickler” for doing things the right way, former Shelby County Engineer James “Jimmy” Ray Jr., 88, made a positive impact on the future of Shelby County engineering.
Ray passed away Feb. 8 after suffering from a stroke 15 months ago.
Ray worked for the county from 1947 until his retirement in 1980. For the last 25 years before his retirement, he served as the county engineer and director of public works.
“He was a stickler for everything being done the right way,” Shelby County Attorney Butch Ellis said. “He really was an extraordinary man.”
Ellis credits Ray for sending the county’s highway engineering department down a positive track.
Ray, born July 3, 1924, attended Shelby County High School, where he met his high school sweetheart and future wife, Vivian Wood.
He joined the U.S. Marines out of high school, and served in World War II in the Pacific Theatre.
After the war, Ray returned to Shelby County and attended Alabama Highway Department schools and the University of Alabama at Birmingham at night to earn his professional licenses in civil engineering and land surveying, according to his obituary.
During his career, Ray was awarded the National County Engineer of the Year award.
The county named the civil defense building after Ray in 1977. The building, on Alabama 70, now houses Shelby County Environmental Services.
“He was a great guy and a good engineer,” Ellis said.
Ray is survived by his wife of 70 years and three sons, as well as six grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren, who called him “Big Jim,” according to his obituary.
Ray’s funeral will be Feb. 13 at 11 a.m., and the family will receive friends from 9:30-11 a.m., all at First Baptist Church of Columbiana with Reverend Michael Miller officiating. Burial will follow at Pinelawn Gardens.
In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made to First Baptist Church of Columbiana building fund. Bolton Funeral Home of Columbiana is directing.