S. J. Ray was born near Westville, in Chariton County, Missouri in 1891 the youngest of nine children. At the age of five he made his first drawing, on the front of a pine drawer in which his father kept his carpentry tools. He was named Silvey, he said, possibly because his family favored unusual names. His mother was Sarilda, and he had two brothers named Prentice and Winford and a sister named Genevra. In 1921, he married Miss C laird Sohns, adding another individual name to the family roster.
Mr. Ray’s formal education ended with grammar school but much later, in 1919-20, he studied at the Art Students League in New York. His teacher was F. R. Gruger, a painter who also was an illustrator for a Philadelphia newspaper.
Mr. Ray went to work for the Kansas City Star in 1915. As an illustrator, he never heard from the public, Ray said, but as soon as he began drawing political cartoons he found himself on the party line. “It was like I had moved up to the ringside,” he commented. As a cartoonist, he has been more interested in enlightening people humorously than he has been in remaking the world.
Of all of the subjects he has tackled, Ray has liked best of all doing his “nature cartoons.” He says he is an admirer of tranquility and harmony, and where else do you find it besides in nature. As an artist he never ceases to wonder at how beautifully objects in nature arrange themselves.
Mr. Ray, at the age of 72, has retired from the K.C. Star and he and his wife will spend their time on the forty-acre wooded spot in Clay County, where they have lived for the past twenty years in rustic bliss.