Rayford Glynn Mays Jr.

Foreign Service Officer

Rayford Glynn Mays Jr., 83, a retired Foreign Service officer and former executive director of Habitat for Humanity in Montgomery County, died of pneumonia Aug. 26 at Montgomery General Hospital in Olney.

Dr. Mays was with the U.S. State Department for 43 years. As a foreign relations analyst, he correctly predicted Nikita Khrushchev's rise to power in 1953 after the death of Joseph Stalin. During nearly two decades of service with Habitat for Humanity, an Atlanta-based organization that recruits volunteers to build homes for low-income families, he oversaw nearly two dozen construction and renovation projects.

Dr. Mays was born in Birmingham and graduated from Drew University in 1942. During World War II, he served stateside as a staff sergeant in the Army. After the war, he attended Yale University, where he was a history instructor while he worked on his doctoral dissertation. After receiving his doctorate in European history in 1951, he and his family moved to Silver Spring, where he lived -- except for overseas tours of duty -- until 2002.

He served with the Foreign Service in Europe from 1957 to 1964, at the height of the Cold War. He was the political officer at the U.S. mission in Berlin and regional director of the State Department's refugee program in Geneva and also served in Salzburg and Frankfurt.

In his later years at the State Department, he worked in Washington as director of the Monitoring Overseas Direct Employment Staff, in the office of the undersecretary of state for management. Upon retirement in 1994, he received the John Jacob Rogers Distinguished Service Medal.

He joined Habitat for Humanity in 1985 and continued with the organization until shortly before his death. A colleague noted that he befriended many of the families with whom he worked and often maintained those friendships long after construction had finished. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush awarded him a Thousand Points of Light award for his Habitat service.

Mr. Mays's wife, Matilda Frances Leonardo Mays, died in 2001.

Survivors include a daughter, Mildred Agate-Mays of Cambridge, Mass.; four sons, Glynn Mays of Halethorpe, Md., Robert Mays of Chapel Hill, N.C., and David Mays and Christopher Mays, both of Gaithersburg; a sister; and 16 grandchildren.