Judge Richard S. Bray

Published 12:23 pm Monday, May 13, 2024

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The Honorable Richard S. Bray passed away peacefully in his home in Chesapeake, Virginia, with his family by his side on May 4, 2024, after a courageous battle with cancer. He was born on May 16, 1946, in Norfolk County, Virginia, to James C. and Muriel Johnson Bray. Judge Bray, a man after God’s own heart, truly loved his wife and family and had an extraordinary bond with his two grandchildren. He was a devoted and dear friend to many, distinguished jurist, community leader, and philanthropist. He was a true advocate who passionately fought for the rights of others.

After graduating from Woodrow Wilson High School in Portsmouth in 1964, he attended Randolph-Macon College, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science/Economics with honors, graduating in the top of his class. He was also a proud member of the Kappa Alpha Order social fraternity. Richard pursued his legal education at the Marshall-Wythe School of Law, College of William and Mary. He distinguished himself academically, earning a Juris Doctor degree while being awarded the prestigious W.A.R. Goodwin Academic Scholarship. During law school he served on, and was published in, the William and Mary Law Review.

Richard’s professional career began as a law clerk to Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia, Lawrence W. I’Anson. He then served as an associate attorney at Hodges & Kellam, and with Kellam, Pickrell & Lawler where he established himself as a dedicated legal practitioner. In 1975, he co-founded Bray & Whitehurst where he served as Managing Partner with his beloved friend Colon H. Whitehurst, until 1989. He was appointed as a Commissioner in Chancery by the Judges of the First Judicial Circuit, City of Chesapeake, where he served with distinction.

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In 1989, he was appointed as a Judge for the Third Judicial Circuit of Virginia by the Virginia General Assembly, marking the beginning of a remarkable judicial career. He was elevated to serve as a Judge for the Court of Appeals of Virginia in 1991. He continued to serve the judiciary with honor and integrity, culminating in his service as a Senior Judge on the Court of Appeals from 2002 to 2003. Judge Bray treated lawyers and individuals with dignity and respect. He was a student of the law, a wordsmith, and brought clarity to the law in his written opinions.

Beyond his legal career, he was a respected member of the Chesapeake, Norfolk-Portsmouth, and Virginia Bar Associations and served on the Fourth District Ethics Committee of the Virginia State Bar. His appointment as a Commissioner for the Virginia Marine Resources Commission and his involvement in various community organizations, such as Greenbrier Country Club, and the People’s Bank of Chesapeake, underscore his dedication to serving the broader needs of his community. He also served as a Director of the State Fair of Virginia from 2008 to 2010. Judge Bray valued his opportunity to serve TowneBank as the lead director of the executive committee. He was selected as First Citizen of the City of Chesapeake in 2009, awarded the Lifetime Achievement in Philanthropy by the American Association of Fundraising Professionals, and was a 2023 Hall of Fame Inductee by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeast Virginia. In January of 2024, he was appointed to serve on the Board of Visitors of the Eastern Virginia Medical School.

Judge Bray was transformed by serving as President, Chief Executive Officer, and Chairman of the Board of the Beazley Foundation, Inc., where his leadership was instrumental in advancing the foundation’s mission of promoting education, healthcare, and community development. Through the foundation’s generous grants and scholarships, Judge Bray helped enrich lives and create opportunities for individuals and families in need.

One of the most notable examples of Judge Bray’s impact is his partnership with Regent University, where the Beazley Foundation has provided significant support for projects such as the IBM Cognos Data Analytics System and the construction of the Shaw Chapel, enhancing the university’s academic and spiritual environment. Judge Bray’s commitment to education and justice is further evident in the establishment of the Lawrence W. I’Anson Endowed Scholarship, the Robertson Center for Constitutional Law at Regent University, and significant investments in Christopher Newport University.

Richard cherished and valued his marriage to his wife, confidante, and best friend, Dawn B. Bray, who faithfully stood by his side. He was an avid boater, fisherman, gardener, and traveler, and found joy in the simple pleasures of life, especially time with his many dear and precious friends. Richard was committed to the Lord and his church, First Presbyterian Church of Norfolk, where he served as a trustee and usher.

Richard was preceded in death by his mother and father, sister-in-law Jane Kremer Bray of Portsmouth, Virginia, and nephew, Robert Morgan Bray of Richmond, Virginia. He is survived by his wife of twenty-seven years, Dawn Blankenship Bray of Chesapeake, her daughters, Shannon Michelle and husband, Oscar H. Bejarano of Norfolk, Virginia, and Shawn Y. Cross of Portsmouth, Virginia, grandchildren, Kaylee Michelle and Bryan Oscar Bejarano of Clemson, South Carolina, and brother James Robert (Bobby) Bray of Portsmouth, Virginia.

A memorial service will be held Tuesday, May 14, 2024 at 11 a.m. at the First Presbyterian Church, 820 Colonial Ave., Norfolk, Virginia. A private graveside service will precede the memorial service.

G. Robert Aston Jr., William Ashton Lewis Sr., John E. Pappas, Charles Parkerson, William E. Seward III, and J. Westwood Smithers Jr. will serve as honorary pallbearers.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute for Merkel Cell Research in Memory of the Honorable Richard S. Bray, Eastern Virginia Medical School or to the charity of your choice. (Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, 10 Brookline Place West, Brookline, MA 02445-7295, www.dana-farber.org/gift)

Funeral arrangements are being handled by H.D. Oliver Funeral Apartments, Norfolk. Online condolences can be made to the family at hdoliver.com.