Brother Ray

Published 12:08 am Friday, December 30, 2011

Ten years ago, I struggled to find the right words to convince a rising star in the newspaper industry to uproot his family and move to Washington to join me in operating the Washington Daily News.

Now, a decade later, I face a similar struggle in expressing my appreciation to one William Ray McKeithan (Billy Ray, to me), who has become much more than just a colleague and friend, as he prepares to move on.

Ray’s announcement that he was leaving the Daily News coincided with another man’s decision that he was also leaving his employment of a decade to pursue another opportunity. Aside from the small detail of a $254 million contract, there were certainly some parallels between the two situations. But with all due respect to Albert Pujols and his new baseball team, I think it is Ray McKeithan who has earned the right to wear an “Angels” cap.

Ray has left an indelible mark on the Daily News and the community it seeks to serve. His commitment to professionalism and quality journalism is beyond reproach. Yet it is our personal relationship, not our professional one, that I cherish the most.

Ray has been there for me during some of the most difficult challenges of my life, including the loss of both of my parents, all the while honoring their legacy by his unwavering devotion to the newspaper.

It has been said that adversity doesn’t build character, it reveals it. I watched Ray McKeithan operate under the most trying of circumstances. I saw a man of grace and dignity in the face of great personal loss and tragedy.

Ray McKeithan lost his brother.

But just as surely, I found mine.

One of the great tragedies of life is that we all allow special moments to expire without really expressing what we truly feel. Not this time, in this place. It is woefully inadequate for me to merely say thanks and best wishes in the future. I speak for myself, and countless others I am sure.

Billy Ray, I love you brother.

Brownie Futrell is publisher emeritus of the Washington Daily News.