Contrary to a report yesterday, D.C. City Council member John Ray remained a candidate for mayor to the end of the 1982 campaign and received 3,266 votes.
To hear John Lamar Ray tell it, he "ain't nothin but a country boy" in a well tailored suit. Ray, an at-large City Council member, likens himself to cartoon character Beetle Bailey and says his Georgia stomping ground is a lot like Mayberry, the fictional town in the old Andy Griffith television show.
Born in Toms Creek, Ga., (he pronounces it, joy ja), Ray said his childhood was devoted to hunting alligators, dipping turpentine, collecting wild honey from beehives and running from wild hogs. Today, Ray, a politician and lawyer, is busy with paperwork, negotiations and speeches.
And, he says while he no longer has to do the chores of a sharecropper's grandson, his way of thinking is still influenced by his upbringing.
Ray first became interested in politics, at the age of 10, because he enjoyed power and fringe benefits. At 41, Ray, running for reelection to a second term and who has twice run unsuccessfully for mayor, said he is still in politics for the same reasons.
In the Sept. 11 Democratic primary, Ray is being opposed by Benoit Brookens, 36, an international economist and lawyer. Brookens has not held city office before and has attracted little in the way of campaign contributions or support from local officials. He said his hopes on winning are pinned to grassroots support.
Ray's introduction to politics was when he was 10 and he rode horseback in Georgia's Okefenokee Swamp to hang campaign posters for then-U.S. senatorial candidate Herman Talmadge. Ray said of the experience, "I was doing it because . . . they campaign staffers would give me a couple of bucks to go out and do this thing. It was the money and riding on the horse. I mean, listen man, being able to ride a horse would be like someone loaning you a sportscar . . . It was a big thrill and the way to have that thrill was to put up those posters."
These days when Ray hangs posters of himself he says he does it to advance the black race.
"If I wasn't on the City Council I'd be . . . a partner in a law firm and would probably be making $200,000 a year. But, I think that we black politicians have a great opportunity here. I mean, this is the nation's capital."
Ray said, as he pounded his fist into his hand, "Blacks, a minority in this country, are a majority here. They control the legislative process, the executive branch. . . . We have a chance to make Washington, D.C., the model for what blacks can accomplish and I intend to be a part of that."
Ray came to Washington in 1967 to attend George Washington University. After earning a bachelor's degree in political science, he enrolled in the school's Law Center. Seeking some practical experience while still in law school, he walked into the office of former Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas and offered to work.
He left his resume even though he was told there were no openings. "When I got home that day, I got a call from the secretary . She said, 'Mr. Ray, Justice Fortas wanted to know whether or not you would stop by tonight and have dinner with him and his wife.' I was flabbergasted."
Fortas was impressed. "I got that job because I was aggressive. Fortas said, 'Anyone who is willing to just come down and just knock on my door and say I want a job must be willing to work.' So we sat down and talked and he discovered I had good grades and he gave me a job."
After his graduation in 1973 from the Law Center, he worked as a clerk for U.S. Appeals Court Judge Spottswood Robinson III. In 1974, Ray worked as legal counsel on the Senate subcommittee on antitrust and monopoly. In 1977, he became an attorney adviser in the Office of Legal Counsel of the U.S. Department of Justice.
In 1978, Ray decided that "We had had enough of then-Mayor Walter Washington and I felt that I could do a better job as mayor than others challenging him in the race. I looked at myself and said, 'This is my city. I'm qualified for leadership.' I had always had an urge to get involved in public office, so I quit my job, got my money together and I ran."
Ray dropped out of the race and threw his support to Marion Barry, who in turn, after being elected, urged his supporters on the Democratic Committee to select Ray to fill his at-large seat on the Council. He was appointed by the committee and in 1980, he was elected to the seat.
He ran for mayor a second time in 1982, but dropped out again and threw his support to Barry.
As a neophyte mayoral candidate in 1978, Ray was described by reporters as nervous and timid, but he has since mellowed into a mansubtle but determined, confident but low-key. He no longer suffers from a lack of name recognition, but he still sees himself as an underdog.
Comparing himself to Beetle Bailey, he said, "You have the sergeant who clearly thought he was a very tough, smart guy, but then here is this little ole dumb Beetle Bailey who is always outmaneuvering, you know, out-cunning, them all. I sort of always saw myself in that same situation. I was just a little guy from Toms Creek, Ga.
"But with a little wit, a little this, a little of that, I mean, you can always outdo the other guy. So Beetle Bailey, to me, is a guy who don't have the smarts, he doesn't have the stature, he doesn't have the power, but he's got enough wit to always land on his feet."
His proudest accomplishment on the council, he said, is the legislation he sponsored that prohibits city investments in banks and corporations that do business in South Africa, where apartheid is practiced.
Ray's opponent, Brookens, views himself as "a fighter for the people" and has been particularly concerned about the rights of tenants. He has accused Ray of being unresponsive on housing issues and supports continuing the city's rent control law, which expires in 1985. If elected to the council, Brookens said he would focus on improving housing conditions in the city and increasing employment opportunities.
Brookens, a 1973 graduate of Columbia Law School and a member of the bar in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, has been accused of practicing law in the city without a license.
The D.C. Court of Appeals' unauthorized practices committee has asked appeals Judge John A. Terry to hold Brookens in contempt, for which he could face jail or fines if he is found guilty.
Brookens has acknowledged appearing numerous times in court and filing court documents in several cases over the last four years, but denies that he did anything wrong, according to court records.