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Gray Family Papers

Finding Aid & Inventory

The Gray Family Papers consist of the personal and professional materials of members of the Gray family of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. This collection dates from the late 19th century to the 21st century and contains of photograph albums, scrapbooks, newspaper clippings, publications, and correspondence. Extended family members as well as other community members are documented in this collection as well.

Biographical and Historical Note

The Gray Family of Winston-Salem, N.C., included Bowman Gray, Sr., (1874-1935), a banker and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (RJR) executive; his wife Nathalie Fontaine Lyons Gray (1884-1961); Bowman's father James Alexander Gray, Sr., (1846-1918) founder of Wachovia Bank and Trust; the children of Bowman, Sr., and Nathalie, sons Bowman Gray, Jr., (1907-1969), RJR chairman and benefactor of Wake Forest University Bowman Gray School of Medicine, and Gordon Gray (1909-1982), who served as a federal government official during the Eisenhower Administration and President of the University of North Carolina system. The materials were gifted to the University archives by one of Bowman Gray, Jr.'s sons, Lyons Gray.

Bowman Gray was born in 1874 in Winston, N.C. to Wachovia Bank and Trust co-founder James Alexander Gray and Aurelia Bowman. Bowman Gray attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 1890-1891 before leaving to become a clerk at Wachovia. In 1895, he began working at R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company as a salesman at RJR in 1895 and became a manager in 1897. His work at Reynolds moved Gray to Baltimore, where he met and married Nathalie Fontaine Lyons. The couple had two sons, Bowman, Jr., and Gordon while living in Baltimore, but the family relocated to Bowman, Sr.'s hometown in 1912 after Reynolds Company founder, Richard Joshua (R.J.) Reynolds, selected him to lead the company's finance division. After twelve years in this role, Bowman, Sr., succeeded Reynolds' brother, William Neal, as president of RJR.

Between 1927 and 1932, Bowman Sr. and Nathalie oversaw the construction of the family estate, Graylyn, located across from the Reynolda estate of R.J. and Katherine Reynolds. In 1935, two years after the Grays moved into Graylyn, Bowman, Sr., died of a heart attack aboard a ship and was buried at sea. He bequeathed $750,000 of RJR stock to be used for a charitable endeavor and the family eventually decided the money would be used to establish a four-year medical school. A stipulation for accepting the gift was to relocate to Winston-Salem, N.C. Wake Forest University, then known as Wake Forest College, agreed to relocate its two-year medical school from Wake Forest to Winston-Salem. The Bowman Gray School of Medicine and the hospital, which were followed by the whole university, have been key contributors to the area's economic infrastructure and community. Graylyn Estate was also donated to the Bowman Gray School of Medicine. In 1972, Gordon Gray purchased the home from the medical school and donated it to the University. The house was used for academic programs and student housing until 1980, when the top floor of the estate caught on fire. Following the fire, University president James Ralph Scales declared that the property would be restored to its original condition and repurposed.

Bowman Gray, Jr., was born in 1907 in Baltimore, M.D. to Bowman, Sr., and Nathalie Fontaine Lyons Gray. He attended the Reynolda School in Winston-Salem, Woodberry Forest School in Virginia, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 1929, Bowman, Jr., became a salesman with RJR and then vice-president(1949). He was appointed sales manager (1952) executive vice-president (1955). Gray was president of the company from 1957-1959, when he became chairman of the board and chief executive officer. He stepped down as chief executive officer in 1967 and remained chairman of the board until his death in 1969. Bowman, Jr., also served as an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserves. He was on active duty in Norfolk, Virginia., where he helped develop plans and procedures for Navy intelligence. In 1936, Bowman, Jr. married Elizabeth (Libby) Palmer Christian of Richmond, Virginia. They had five sons: Bowman III, Frank Christian, Robert Daniel, Lyons, and Peyton Randolph. In 1969, Bowman Jr. died at his Winston-Salem home, Brookberry Farm, and is buried in Salem Cemetery. Gray actively donated to local orphanages and schools and other philanthropic projects.

Gordon Gray was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1909 to Bowman, Sr., and Nathalie Fontaine Lyons Gray. Gordon Gray held a variety of public service roles in local and national politics. He represented Forsyth County in the North Carolina General Assembly twice, from 1939-1943 and 1947-1949. Gray served in the U.S. Army and was appointed to Assistant Secretary of the Army (1949-1950), he was director of the Office of Defense Mobilization (1957-1958) and served as National Security Advisor (1958-1961). In 1961 he was awarded the Medal of Freedom and served on the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. In 1976, he was awarded the United States Military Academy's Sylvanus Thayer Award. Gray served as chairman of the board of Piedmont Publishing Company and was also publisher of the The Winston-Salem Journal. In 1938 he married Jane Boyden Craige and they had four sons: Gordon, Jr., Burton, C. Boyden, and Bernard.

Lyons Gray was born to Bowman, Jr. and Elizabeth (Libby) Palmer Christian Gray in Winston-Salem, N.C. in 1942. He attended the Wooster School and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. From 1964-1965, Lyons served in the U.S. Coast Guard. Gray also served as a government official in several different capacities: as a Republican in the North Carolina house of Representatives (1989-2002), as a Chief Financial Officer of the Environmental Protection Agency (2005-2009) during the George W. Bush Administration, and the N.C. Secretary of Revenue (2013-2016). Currently, Lyons has been a N.C. Public Utilities Commissioner since 2016.

Constance (Connie) Fraser Gray graduated from Queens College, now Queens University, in Charlotte, N.C., in 1969, and worked as an administrative assistant at the Reynolda House Museum of American Art. She and Lyons were married in 1971. Connie served as a Wake Forest University Trustee and was selected by President James Ralph Scales to chair the Graylyn Advisory Committee after the fire in 1980. After determining that using the estate as a conference center would best serve the university and community, Connie served on the interior decorations committee to ensure the modern furnishings still complimented the Norman Revival architectural style of the home.

James Alexander Gray, Jr., (1889-1952) was the eldest son of James A. Gray, Sr., and Aurelia Bowman Gray. James, Jr., was born in Winston, N.C. where he lived and attended the West End Public School. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1908. He began his business career at Wachovia Bank where he served as a clerk, assistant treasurer, vice-president (1915), and a director (1918-1952). During this period Gray was president of the North Carolina Bankers Association (1918–1919) and a member of the executive council of the American Bankers Association (1920–1921). In 1920, James, Jr., joined RJR where he served as vice-president (1934-1946), company director (1946-1949), and as chairman of the executive committee from 1949 until his death in 1952. He married Pauline Lisette Bahnson in 1918 and the two had three sons, James III, Howard, and Bahnson, and three daughters, Emma, Pauline, and Aurelia.

Collection Overview

This collection documents personal and professional activities of several Gray family members. The collection dates from the late 19th century to the 21st century, and consists of photograph albums, scrapbooks, newspaper clippings, and correspondence. This collection documents the Gray family's involvement in local and national politics, industry, education, and charity. Materials consist primarily of scrapbooks of photographs and newspaper clippings. Other paper materials once belonged to Gordon Gray and contain some of his professional correspondence and correspondence between his nephew, Thomas Gray and niece Constance (Connie) Gray, wife of Lyons Gray, regarding the renovation of Graylyn Estate. Additional materials include correspondence from Bowman Gray, Sr., while he worked as a tobacco salesman. Researchers interested in campus history, local history and primary resources that document the evolved economic landscape of the area will find this collection a valuable resource.

The collection is arranged alphabetically into two series: Series 1. Family materials, and Series 2. Land and estate materials.

Series 1, Family materials, is divided into fives subseries: Subseries A. Gray, Sr., Bowman; Subseries B. Gray, Jr., Bowman and Elizabeth (Libby); Subseries C.Gray, Gordon; Subseries D.Gray, James Alexander; Subseries E.Gray, Lyons and Constance (Connie)

Collection Inventory

  • Family materials
    • Gray, Sr., Bowman
      • Bowman, Sr., obituary clipping, The Union Republican article (1935 July 11) box 28 item 6
      • Bowman, Sr., "50 People Who Shaped Winston-Salem" article (circa 2013) box 28 folder 2
      • Bowman, Sr., featured article, Fortune magazine (1931 January) box 30 item 4
      • Family historical achievements scrapbook (1879-1947) box 1 item 2
      • Family photograph album (1900-1930) box 2 item 1
      • Nathalie Gray Bernard death notice clipping (1961) box 28 folder 17
      • Obituaries and events newspaper clippings scrapbook (1935-1945) box 1 item 1
      • Professional correspondence (1907-1935) box 28 folder 29
      • Wake Forest Alumni News magazine featuring Bowman, Sr. (1939 October) box 28 folder 9
    • Gray, Jr., Bowman and Elizabeth (Libby)
      • Bowman, Sr., portraits, Bowman, Jr., and Gordon Gray family Christmas cards (1900-1969) box 30 item 8
      • Bowman, Jr., photograph, 16 months old (1908) box 30 item 3
      • Elizabeth and Bowman, Jr., funeral programs (1969, 1974) box 28 folder 12
      • Elizabeth portrait (circa 1930s) box 30 item 2
      • Family Christmas cards scrapbook (1944-1968) box 24 item 1
      • Family portraits and photographs (1942-1948) box 30 item 5
      • Friends and family photograph album (1930-1960) box 3 item 1
      • Music box family photograph album (circa 1800s) box 29 item 1
      • Navy scrapbook (1936-1944) box 12 item 2
      • Personal and professional news and correspondence (1969) box 28 folder 7
      • Professional achievement scrapbooks (1890-1960) box 4-11 item 1-8
      • "The Fir Tree" Woodberry Forest school yearbook (1925) box 12 item 1
      • Time Magazine, featuring Bowman, Jr.  (1960 April 11) box 28
      • Time Magazine, Bowman, Jr., cover (1960 April 11) box 27 item 2-3
    • Gray, Gordon materials
      • Bowman, Jr., and Gordon Gray families Christmas cards (1940-1960) box 28 folder 10
      • Bowman, Sr., newspaper article; Lyons photograph with Pat McCrory (circa 2000s) box 28 folder 14
      • C. Boyden newspaper articles (1991) box 28 folder 3
      • Gordon service certificate (1978 March 16) box 28 folder 23
      • Gordon Gray materials (1982-1983) box 28 folder 5
      • Harry S. Truman letter to Gordon Gray (1958) box 28 folder 4
      • WFU Board of Trustees appreciation certificate (1989 October 6) box 30 item 1
    • Gray, Jr., James Alexander
      • Pauline Bahnson Gray Robinson photograph albums (circa 1900s-1940s) box 31 item 1-3
      • Photocopied collection of newspaper clippings (circa 1930s-1940s) box 30 item 7
    • Gray, Lyons and Constance (Connie)
      • Asia and South Pacific trip scrapbook (1967) box 26 item 1
      • Constance high school yearbook (1965) box 25 item 2
      • Constance Louise Fraser debutante ball photograph album (1966 December 28) box 27 item 1
      • Family photographs and note (2015 October 20) box 28 folder 15
      • Lyons baby photograph album (1942-1943) box 13 item 1
      • Lyons Book I, early life scrapbook (1947-1954) box 13 item 2
      • Lyons Book II, personal and family photographs during adolescence (1953-1955) box 14 item 2
      • Lyons Book III, correspondence and adolescent photographs (1907, 1953-1959) box 15 item 1
      • Lyons Book IV, Gray family Europe trip (1900, 1956-1961) box 15 item 2
      • Lyons Book V, academic trip to England and family photographs (1908, 1946-1965) box 16 item 1
      • Lyons Book VI, navy scrapbook (1952-1968) box 17 item 1
      • Lyons Christmas cards, poems, and presents list notebook (1953-1962) box 14 item 1
      • Lyons and Constance family photograph album (1971-2003) box 22 item 2
      • Lyons public service materials scrapbook (1991-2001) box 22 item 1
      • Lyons "Years in Public Service I" congressional scrapbook (1986-1994) box 18 item 1
      • Lyons "Years in Public Service II" congressional scrapbook (1994-1997) box 19 item 1
      • Lyons "Years in Public Service III" congressional scrapbook (1998-2002) box 20 item 1
      • Lyons and Connie Gray wedding photograph album (1971 May 29) box 25 item 1
      • "Hobe Sound" Gray family vacation photograph album (1970-2000) box 21 item 1
  • Land and estate materials
    • "Arson is Possibility at Graylyn", and "Architect's Forewarning", Winston-Salem Journal articles (1980 June 24) box 30 item 11-12
    • Bowman Gray School of Medicine founding research materials (1939-2015) box 28 folder 18-20
    • Brookberry Farm photobook (2003) box 28 item 1
    • Brookberry Farm cattle auction catalogue (1967) box 28 item 2
    • "Centenary's Past, 1832-1994; A Brief History of Centenary Methodist Church, by Reverend G. William Bumgarner", book, and "The Chancel Choir and Orchestra: Centenary United Methodist Church," compact disc (1994-2003) box 27 item Unknown
    • "Diary of Our Family's Nineteen Years at Graylyn, 1928-1946" by Louis D. Baker (1995) box 23 item 4-5
    • "Fire Causes Severe Loss at Graylyn", Winston-Salem Journal article (1980 June 23) box 30 item 8
    • Gray family Winston-Salem building projects (undated) box 28 folder 13
    • Graylyn Conference Center dedication materials (1984 May) box 28 folder 22
    • "Graylyn Conference Center of Wake Forest University" lithograph engraving (circa 1980s) box 30 item 14
    • "Graylyn Will Be Rebuilt", The Sentinel article (1980 June 23) box 30 item 9-10
    • Graylyn Estate produce invoices (1938-1939) box 28 folder 11
    • Graylyn Estate photographs and materials (1981-1996) box 28 folder 16
    • Graylyn Estate plat maps (1973-1982) box 28 folder 31
    • Graylyn Estate land sale and redevelopment materials (1972-1981) box 28 folder 24-28
    • "James A. Gray, Sr.: City Builder", article by Elizabeth Jerome (circa 1940s) box 30 item 6
    • North Carolina Homes & Gardens magazine featuring Graylyn (1990) box 23 item 1-2
    • "Restoration of Graylyn", Winston-Salem Journal article (1980 November 30) box 30 item 13
    • Robert Gray paper mill newspaper article photocopy (1976 June 28) box 28 folder 1
    • The Story of Graylyn book (circa 1985) box 23 item 3
    • Thomas A. Gray R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company Memorabilia Auction Catalog article (2000 April 28) box 28 folder 21

Summary Information

Z. Smith Reynolds Library Special Collections and Archives
Gray Family Papers
Date [inclusive]
47.5 Linear Feet  32 oversized boxes, 1 record carton

Administrative Information

Publication Information
Z. Smith Reynolds Library Special Collections and Archives
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is open for use. 
Copyright Notice
The nature of the WFU Z. Smith Reynolds Library Special Collections and Archives means that copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine despite reasonable efforts. The Archives and Special Collections of ZSR Library claims only physical ownership of most materials. The materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to the U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. 
Preferred Citation
Gray Family Papers (MS912), Z. Smith Reynolds Library Special Collections and Archives, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC, USA. 

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