aaracering Pioneer: Joseph Reynolds "Joie" Ray Jr.
Joie Ray was born in 1923 in Louisville, Kentucky just one year before Chicago businessman William Rucker founded the Colored Speedway Association, the barnstorming circuit where Black drivers would race all over the Midwest.
Joie’s inspiration to become a race car driver was fueled by the stories he heard growing up about the drivers and mechanics that competed in the Colored Speedway Association’s “Gold and Glory Sweepstakes”.
Joie’s racing career did not begin until 1946 when he saw a race car on sale for $450 in the classifieds. As the story goes, Joie bought his first race car after playing the numbers. One morning a number writer asked if Joie was playing the numbers that day—Joie said “give me 450 for a dollar”. Later that afternoon, the number writer came back and threw $500 dollars down in front of Joie and said, “congratulations, the numbers paid 500 to 1”.
In 1947, Joie Ray became the first licensed African American to compete in the American Automobile Association (AAA) sanctioning body. The significance of this accomplishment is that from the early 1900’s to 1947, Black drivers and mechanics were discriminated from participating in AAA sanctioned events—which included the Indianapolis 500; hence the creation of the Colored Speedway Association in 1924. Even after being licensed by AAA in 1947, Joie never got the opportunity to compete in the Indy 500 during his 17-year career and he was never bitter about it because he still raced against the same drivers at other AAA sanctioned events around the country that were able to participate in the Indy 500.
At one point, Joie was the only African American driver to hold simultaneously an American Automobile Association (AAA), Central States Racing Association (CSRA) and International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) license, which were the three largest sanctioning bodies in American motorsports during that time.
Upon his retirement in 1963, Joie remained very active in motorsports traveling the country enjoying the sport he loved. In 1991, he was very proud to have witnessed Willy T. Ribbs become the first African American to qualify for the Indianapolis 500, and then have Willy appear as his guest at the Hoosier Auto Racing Fans (HARF) Banquet the following January.
In 1995, Joie was inducted into the Hoosier Auto Racing Fans (HARF) Hall of Fame. Over the years, Joie has been interviewed and featured in several racing magazines, books and publications, as well as appearing on several radio and television shows.
In recent years, Joie’s accomplishments have been honored and recognized by the following events: ESPN’s 2003 Black History Month special “The Forgotten Race – Where the Finish Line Crosses the Color Line”, as a featured subject for SPEED Channel’s 2004 Black History Month vignettes and in 2006 as a featured guest for Red Bull’s “For the Gold and Glory – Celebration of African American Heritage in Motorsports”.
Just this past weekend, 08.11.12, Joseph Reynolds "Joie" Ray Jr. was inducted into the Kentucky Motorsports Hall of Fame, for more info, KMHOF @ 502- 937-9781