Iowa Politicians and Community Members React to Death of Former Governor Robert D. Ray

IOWA  --  Former Governor Robert D. Ray passed away on Sunday at age 89.

Iowa politicians and other prominent members of the community have since been sharing their thoughts after the announcement. See their statements below.

Governor Kim Reynolds

“Governor Ray’s legacy lives on in the millions of people that he impacted as a tremendous statesman for Iowa and our nation. His civility, courage and common-sense governing set a high standard for those who followed. 

“May our prayers and thoughts bring peace to First Lady Billie Ray, her daughters and family at this time.” 

Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg 

"Governor Ray was a giant in Iowa history, and he left an indelible mark on this state. He will be remembered as a leader who earned the respect of Iowans of all backgrounds and beliefs. May he remain a role model to us all. 

"Cari and I send our sincere condolences to the Ray family." 

Ray's Former Chief of Staff  David Oman

“Bob Ray defined the modern era governorship for Iowa and beyond. More importantly, he touched the lives of three generations of Iowans, who respected, trusted and followed his leadership. He will be greatly missed by many; his legacy will extend for decades to come.” 

In an interview with Channel 13, Oman also said, "Bob Ray really defined the modern governorship not only in Iowa but in our country. Because he was a mentor to main governors and helped train new governors, even Bill Clinton in Arkansas. He also exuded character. When he said something, people believed him, and that allowed him to work across party lines and work with Democrats as well as Republicans."

Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack

“Governor Ray set the highest standard for and in public service. He never stopped giving to the state he loved and the people he served in so many different capacities. His role in inviting refugees to Iowa is one of his many legacies and is a reminder of what was best about him and about Iowa. Christie and I send thoughts and prayers go to the entire Ray family.” 

Gubernatorial Candidate Fred Hubbell 

"Governor Ray's courageous and compassionate leadership serves as an example to us all. He was an Iowan first, always putting what was best for the people and this state above all else. A testament to this, was his constant work across the aisle to push and pass landmark accomplishments like collective bargaining for Iowa workers, the Iowa Bottle Bill to clean up Iowa roads, and his welcoming of war-torn refugees that have enriched Iowa communities. He will be greatly missed, but his legacy will live on in those deeds. Our hearts and prayers are with First Lady Billie Ray and all of the Ray family." 

Gubernatorial Candidate Jake Porter

"My thoughts are with the family of Governor Ray. We should take time to reflect on how Governor Ray changed Iowa for the better. While people may disagree on some of his policies, he was a Governor for all Iowans."

Senator Chuck Grassley

“Governor Ray leaves behind a legacy of public service whose humanitarianism and visionary leadership as the state’s chief executive will enrich our state for generations to come. A soldier, statesman, citizen and CEO, Bob Ray was a profile of an American patriot. From my years in the statehouse through my first term in the U.S. Senate, I witnessed Gov. Ray strengthen the grassroots of our party, make Iowa a better place to grow, and build our state’s economy. Barbara and I extend our heartfelt condolences to Billie and the entire Ray family. He will be greatly missed.” 

Former Governor Chet Culver 

"Governor Robert Ray was a class act and he represented the very best of Iowa. His bipartisan work on character development, civility, collective bargaining, civil rights, conservation and refugee resettlement are things all Iowans can be proud of and truly reflect his well earned legacy of service. 

"As I said during my Inaugural address, Governor Ray taught us that Iowans expect us to encourage, not to shy away from, the diversity that has made us a better state. 

"Mari and I along with the entire Culver family offer our prayers and sympathy to former First Lady Billie Ray and her daughters on this sad day for the Ray family and for Iowa." 

Republican Party of Iowa Chair Jeff Kaufmann

"Governor Ray was a combination of statesmanship, unquestioned integrity, and leadership that transcended politics. Just hours before I assumed the Chairmanship of the Iowa Republican Party, I visited the Governor and he provided me advice and guidance. Every single time I walked away from a visit with Bob Ray, I realized that I had just been in the presence of an Iowa legend. My sincere condolences go out to his wife and daughters with my sincere gratitude for sharing the man who helped to make our precious Iowa a better place." 

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price

"Governor Bob Ray was a true statesman who transformed Iowa. He was a leader who showed that doing right by the people was the most important job of any elected official. He will be missed."

Congressman Steve King on Twitter

"It is with sadness that Iowans mourn the loss of Governor Bob Ray. We revere him with great respect in particular for his statesmanship that opened Iowa to welcome Vietnamese rufugees. Bob & Billie never stopped serving Iowans. God Bless him & may he RIP in God’s hands."

Iowa Democratic Party 

Our hearts are with Governor Ray’s family, friends, and all Iowans mourning his passing. Governor Ray lived and led with Iowa values. He governed with the spirit of service and shaped our great state for the better. Although we were from different sides of the aisle, we know and hope his legacy will live on for years to come.

Former Iowa Secretary of Agriculture and Iowa House Speaker Dale Cochran

“I greatly respected and liked Bob Ray. Governor Ray always had the best interests of Iowans in mind, and even though we were of different parties, we worked together to move the state forward.” 

Former State Representative and current Director of the Robert D. and Billie Ray Center at Drake University Scott Raecker sat down with Political Director Dave Price to discuss Governor Ray's legacy and the many contributions he made to Iowa.

Drake University President Marty Martin shared a message with the campus community on Sunday:

“With a heavy heart, I am writing to share that our cherished friend, distinguished alumnus, and former colleague, Robert D. Ray, died this morning. Governor Ray proudly served as Iowa’s 38th governor and, later in his career, as the 11th president of Drake University, from April 1998 to May 1999. He received his B.A. in business from Drake in 1952, and his juris doctorate from Drake Law School in 1954. 

“Governor Ray is survived by his beloved wife, Billie, three daughters and eight grandchildren. Plans for celebrating his life are pending, and will be announced at a later time. 

“Governor Ray had a tremendous impact on Iowa, the United States and the world. In similar fashion, he served his beloved alma mater exceptionally well. His legacy will live on, of course, through the great work of The Robert D. and Billy Ray Center; the Robert D. Ray Collection of personal papers (circa 1987-1999), archived at Cowles Library; the RaySociety, Drake University’s lifelong learning organization; and the Ray Promenade, a beautiful plaza to be dedicated on campus this fall. 

“For now, please join me in remembering Governor Ray, and in supporting his family at this difficult time. Thank you.”