The Garland and Agnes Taylor Gray Foundation For the Benefit of the Commonwealth
For more than a century, the Gray family of Sussex County, Virginia, has enjoyed a strong reputation in the commonwealth and throughout the Southeast for its high-quality lumber operation and extensive timberland holdings. Equally renowned is the family's legacy of philanthropy, which is carried on today by the Garland and Agnes Taylor Gray Foundation.
The Gray Lumber Co. began when Alfred Lee Gray established a small lumber operation in Tidewater Virginia in 1884. Since then, the company has been managed by successive generations of the Gray family. Garland "Peck" Gray, Alfred Gray's grandson, came into the business in 1922, after graduating from Richmond College (now the University of Richmond) and doing graduate work at Washington and Lee. Garland and Agnes Taylor Gray were known for their generosity to causes in the Tidewater region and beyond. Agnes Gray died in 1962, Garland Gray in 1977.
Garland's son, Elmon, began his lifelong career at Gray Lumber Co. and other related entities after graduating from VMI, Class of 1946. He became president in 1953 and was serving as chairman of the successor company, GrayCo, at the time of his death in 2011. Elmon was married to Pamela Burnside Gray, who died in 2010.
Both Garland and Elmon Gray had a passion for public service as well as for the lumber business. Each served with distinction in the Virginia Senate, Garland for 30 years and Elmon for 20 years, so that from 1941 until 1992, the roster of the Virginia Senate included "Senator Gray of Sussex."
In 1977, the Garland and Agnes Taylor Gray Foundation was funded to coordinate their philanthropy. In 1997, the foundation became a supporting organization of The Community Foundation, which serves Richmond and central Virginia by supporting cultural, historical and educational institutions that have a significant impact on the quality of life in Virginia. Elmon's daughter, Katharine T. Gray, of Richmond, now serves on the board of the foundation in the seat held by her late father.
The Gray family has supported Washington and Lee for decades. Garland Gray established the Garland Gray Scholarship in 1962. In the years since, the Garland and Agnes Taylor Gray Foundation has made major gifts to increase the Gray Scholarship Endowment; to support the construction of the Lenfest Center for the Performing Arts; and for enhancements to Lee Chapel in honor of Robert E. Lee's 200th birthday.
Sen. Elmon Gray received an honorary degree from Washington and Lee in 1990. The Gray family's connection to Washington and Lee continues with his granddaughter, Pamela Minkler, M.D., Class of 1999, who lives in Lynchburg, Virginia, with her husband, Michael, and their two sons.
The evidence of Senator Gray's love of his native state can be found from Tidewater to the Shenandoah Valley in such abundance, that to recount all of his deeds would take up not only the time allotted to us today, but probably several days. And then we would omit much. His generosity in talent, time, guidance and fortune for the benefit of the commonwealth and its citizens was beyond measure.
General J. H. Binford Peay II, Superintendent of Virginia Military Institute
(from the eulogy at the memorial service for Senator Elmon T. Gray)