Joseph Ray Gill
Awarded: Knight Commander’s Accolade
Awarded by Knight Commander William E. Dreyer at Wrights at the Biltmore in Phoenix, Arizona
J. Ray Gill is president of Gill Grain Company in Richmond, Missouri. He and his late wife, Lucille, have two children, John R. Gill and Christie J. White, 4 grandchildren, and 3 great-grandchildren. Born in 1921, Ray comes from a Missouri farm family—fine, solid hardworking people who had little money in the depression. When Ray was 11 years old his parents gave him a baby pig that was sick. The deal was that if he could get the pig well and grow it, it was his to sell. Ray succeeded. With his profits he bought three other little pigs, and so on. Eventually, he had money to buy or lease crop land. He cultivated the land, applied the same growth philosophy, and became one of most successful farmers in the Midwest. Then he became interested in oil. He studied the industry, how to find oil, and get it out of the earth. He bought up royalties in wells that had ostensibly gone dry and used a system to get more oil out, along with royalties, on the residue production. Ray also applied his philosophy to investing; primarily he stuck with municipal bonds and corporations, but he also has invested in his service to others.
Ray has served on the William Jewell College Board of Trustees for 30 years. In 2006, the College awarded Ray a Doctorate of Humane Letters. Ray is steadfast in his commitment to providing Jewell students with a transformational educational experience as demonstrated by his generosity of resources and time. Ray began a scholarship program for young, deserving people. At least one recipient became a William Jewell Trustee. He has made major gifts to the College, his church, his community in Richmond, and to the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale. He is also major donor to the Rotary Club and Foundation, the Masonic Lodge, and the Farris Theatre of Richmond.
Ray has spent a lifetime providing leadership in drainage and levee improvements throughout Ray County. Ray’s progressive thinking has saved countless dollars in flood damage to farms and infrastructure. This began with his initiative, in 1950, to control the Missouri River, from Montana to Missouri. After the flood of that year, there has been limited flooding in the entire American breadbasket.
Ray’s service has been recognized far beyond Richmond and Ray County. Ray and Lucille travelled extensively and were selected to serve as American Farm Ambassadors to China and Russia.
Ray never went beyond the 8th grade in schooling because he knew what he wanted to do and lacked the money to continue. This was when Ray launched his incredible career, and as a result, his community, our Order, and our country has greatly benefited. Ray is a special initiate of Kappa Alpha Order by the Alpha Delta Chapter at William Jewell College.