More info on Ray. JB
Your help is very much appreciated. Elmer Ray - who started his career as 'Bearcat Ray' - indeed became widely
known as Elmer 'Violent' Ray. This 'Violent Ray' monicker may have started out as 'Violet Ray', though, as some earlier
reports list him as such. Regarding his early career not much is known of him until he came to Miami in 1935. Chances are
that he had previously fought on 'colored boxing programs' that generally received little attention from 'white' newspapers. It
is also believed that he engaged in many 'battle royals' before coming into prominence - these were fights in which a number
of black fighters were put in the ring and the last one standing was declared the winner. Well into the 30s, 'white'
boxing programs in the South featured battle royals as their opening event.
Although becoming the number 1 contender for the heavyweight title, beating two future champions and at one point having
a winning streak of 50 fights, Elmer Ray would never receive a title shot during his career. This may be explained by the
fact that Ray peaked during a time that heavyweight champion Joe Louis was in the Army and also that it was a time in which public
demand for a title fight between two black heavyweights was not very big.
At the end of his career Ray would eventually fight Joe Louis in a number of exhibition fights in Florida (fought
with big gloves, where no winner was announced and the title was not on the line), but that was as close as Ray came to fighting
for the heavyweight title of the world. Soon after Elmer Ray - already around 37 at this time - suffered a number of
losses and quit boxing.
By the time of his retirement in 1949 Elmer Ray was no longer living in Floridia but was based in Minneapolis. He may
have moved to California eventually as his former manager Tom O'Loughlin once said, but (until now) no-one in California boxing
circles has found any further evidence of him coming to live there.
I noticed that the information you provided on his brothers and sisters lists earlier dates of birth than U.S. and
Florida Census data indicate. As I have no background of genealogical research I don't know whether Census data in general
are reliable or that they are prone to misstakes.
The discrepancy between the years of birth may be explained by the fact that official records of their births may not
have existed: as to Elmer Ray's age, a May 1948 Associated Press wire reported that the day of his birth (and that of his
siblings as well) had been carved in a tree by his parents on their farm. And as that tree had burnt down following a
forest fire, and no other record of the date had been kept, not even Ray himself knew how old he was.
Once more, thank you very much for your help.
Wouter van Alst
The link to Elmer Ray's Boxrec page on the Federal Point page does not work. I don't know what exactly the problem is.