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Turning Interest into Action

Cecil and Ruth Ray.jpg

Cecil and Ruth Ray were a devoted couple who spent their time and energy helping those needing assistance in the community. They were married for over 40 years.

Cecil worked for several plumbing companies before going into business for himself in 1960. He was a master plumber in Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky. At Murray University, he completed costing and accounting courses. He served as State Security for the Plumbers Association for two years and was on the Board of Directors for several years. Cecil was featured in Who’s Who in the Plumbers Association Encyclopedia and received the first President’s Award in 1984

for Outstanding Contributions from 1954-1983.

Cecil’s character was one of kindness, patience, and longsuffering. He always wanted to do his

best and embraced the philosophy of “striving for excellence.”

Ruth was an active member of the Women’s Auxiliary branch of the National Association of

Plumbing, Heating, Cooling Contractors (NAPHCC). She served as President and Vice President

of the Auxiliary. She was selected for the Auxiliary’s “Woman of the Year” in 1982. Her

accomplishments were countless, and her generosity was boundless. Ruth never sought

recognition since she was happy doing all she could to help someone.

Ruth was involved in many neighborhood organizations, such as High Neighbors, PTA, YMCA,

Meals on Wheels, and the Geneva Cooper Mass Choir. She founded the Cecil M. Ray

Scholarship Fund for Emma L. Minnis Junior Academy.

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A biographical sketch

Emma Lewis Minnis was born October 22, 1880 in Louisville, Kentucky. She was the youngest of nine children, and is probably the most well-known of the Minnis children. She received her early education in the public schools of Louisville, graduating from Western Jr. High School in 1895, Central High School 1898, and the Louisville Colored Normal School in 1899. She enrolled at the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois to begin her graduate studies. While in Cairo, Illinois, she served as a high school teacher and principal. She then returned to Louisville to continue her teaching career. Later, she took a principal’s position at Benjamin Banneker Elementary School, followed by years of service as a critic teacher for the Louisville Normal School. In 1927, Emma took a teaching position at the Oakwood College of Seventh-day Adventists in Huntsville, Alabama. 

Emma and two of her sisters, Ella and Elizabeth, pursued a career in education and music. Ella served as an elementary school teacher in the public school system and the Magazine Street Church School. Elizabeth served as a music teacher and principal at the Colored School for the Blind. 

Emma’s father, Madison Minnis, was born in slavery in 1833. When he was just a youth he was able to escape to Canada with the help of the Underground Railroad. He returned to Louisville in the 1860’s and became a prominent leader in the Black community. He became a chorister of the choir he formed at the Fifth Street Baptist Church – the first Baptist Church in Louisville founded for African Americans. When Madison died in 1884, he became the first African American to be honored by the lowering of the city courthouse flag and the ringing of fire engine bells. 

Emma’s mother, Mrs. Elizabeth Minnis, was a private piano teacher of great renown. Circulated and passed down throughout the generations is a family story citing that Mother Elizabeth played the piano before President Lincoln, who happened to be a friend of the family who once owned her. She created a music studio in her parlor, including a piano for Emma and each of her sisters. Albert Mead Minnis, one of Emma’s brothers and known to be a great carpenter, built the family home. Mother Elizabeth opened her home to the charter members, allowing them to conduct church meetings before the Magazine Street Church was built. 

Emma followed in her mother’s footsteps, spending her life teaching piano around the community as well. She either taught in her pupils’ homes or in her own home. In addition to teaching piano, she served as the chorister of the Magazine Street Church senior choir while her sister, Elizabeth, served as the organist. 

Emma L. Minnis taught music until her death, May 15, 1972. She will long be remembered as a woman of unusual abilities, relishing the highest standards of Christian living and the highest quality of music. 

In 1970, at the recommendation of Mrs. Elizabeth Green, a pioneer member of the church, the school board of the Magazine Street Seventh-day Adventist Church named the Church School in honor of Miss Emma Lewis Minnis. Her service as an outstanding member of the church whom her family helped charter in 1889, will ever remain and example worthy of praise.

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