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Kentucky Commission on Women Honors Gray Founder and Philanthropist Lois Howard Gray


The Kentucky Commission on Women honored Gray Construction founder and community philanthropist Lois Howard Gray posthumously at its annual Kentucky Women Remembered ceremony on March 12, 2013 at the state Capitol Rotunda in Frankfort. As part of this honor, her portrait will be displayed alongside past inductees in the state Capitol.

Al Smith, renowned Kentucky political commentator and friend to Lois Gray, nominated her for the honor. Smith cited Mrs. Gray’s perseverance in the face of extraordinary challenges, as the untimely death of her husband left her to raise six children alone, and a construction company to run.

Smith wrote of Mrs. Gray, “But for the woman who wonders how she can hold a family together, for the woman who panics in grief in the first hours of widowhood, or divorce, for the woman who knows she is the intellectual match of any man but doubts her ability to prove it, Lois is such a great example of courage and determination under fire. Most of all, she also has given us a story of success in many fields by a woman who did it all, without significant compromise, and never surrendered her ideals.”

Despite advice to the contrary, Mrs. Gray chose to continue the work her husband started and, with the help of her sons, grew Gray into one of the top design-build contractors in the nation. As company chairman, Lois applied her considerable social skills to a marketing campaign in the ’80s that found her presiding as hostess for two decades over Gray-sponsored Kentucky Derby events that brought dozens of national and foreign business leaders to the state, many of whom later invested in Gray-built manufacturing facilities across the U.S. Although she had deep roots in the Glasgow area, she encouraged her sons’ initiative to move the company headquarters to Lexington to further enhance their participation in construction opportunities that saw Kentucky become recognized as a major “auto” state and created new jobs across the Commonwealth.

Beyond Mrs. Gray’s success as a businesswoman, she is remembered as a tireless community advocate, who dedicated countless hours to bettering education and arts in Kentucky, playing a key role in the opening of the Kentucky Center for the Arts in 1983.

“Kentucky Women Remembered,” overseen by the Kentucky Commission on Women, began in 1978 and consists of portraits depicting outstanding women in Kentucky’s history. The exhibit found a permanent home in the Capitol in 1996 after many years of traveling around the state.

Thousands of visitors to the Capitol view the portraits each year and learn about the heritage and contributions of women in Kentucky.

The Kentucky Women Remembered Committee selects up to three Kentucky women annually to become part of the exhibit. Nominees must have been born in or spent a significant part of their lives in Kentucky and may be living or deceased.

Gray, ranked 2nd among the U.S. Top Green Contractors in Manufacturing Plant Construction, currently has several large projects, mostly located across the South, that are underway or recently completed including: a Michelin Earthmover tire manufacturing plant in Starr, S.C.; a Caterpillar Inc. manufacturing facility in Winston-Salem, N.C.; a Caterpillar Inc. manufacturing facility near Athens, Ga.; a Siemens gas turbine plant in Charlotte, N.C.; and a Whirlpool plant in Cleveland, Tenn.

    March 12, 2013

    Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a contributing author and not necessarily Gray.

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