James C. Ray
James C. Ray, pilot, businessman, and philanthropist, has been selected to receive the 2012 Lindbergh Spirit Award. This award is given every five years for pioneering achievements in an aviation career with the spirit and character that represents the best of this nation.
While working in Hawaii as a steelworker for the Navy, Ray was an eyewitness to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Shortly thereafter, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps and flew a total of 30 B-17 missions from Rattlesden, England, including raids on German factories, and was a lead pilot on a D-Day attack on enemy headquarters in Normandy, France. Additionally, Ray served with the U.S. Air Force during the Korean conflict.
After the war, Ray flew his Cessna 170B on business and personal trips that took him to 58 countries and every Caribbean island with a landing strip. He has accumulated more than 3,500 hours in single-pilot Citation jets flying across North America as a rancher, oil and gas explorer, and real estate developer.
A successful businessman, Ray has provided start-up funding for more than 300 businesses including Compaq Computer, Eclipse Aviation and Cirrus Design. He believes the discipline and skill he obtained during flight training helped him become successful in business and conversely applies lessons learned in business to his flying.
Ray's philanthropy is predominantly dedicated to aviation-oriented youth education programs. He made a significant contribution for the building of the Central Florida Aerospace Academy on the grounds of Sun 'n Fun. The James C. Ray Scholarship Fund was established to offer financial support for Polk County High School merit students. Ray also provides financial support to the Experimental Aircraft Association and its Young Eagles program; the University of North Dakota Aerospace programs; the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington; and the Future of Flight Aviation Center and Boeing Tour in Everett, Washington. In 2009, he received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from the University of North Dakota.
"We believe that Mr. Ray's interest in supporting both innovative education and business ventures at an early stage of development, particularly to advance solutions for air and pilot safety, is uniquely aligned with the philosophy behind the Spirit Award," noted Treinis.