James Alexander Gray

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

James Alexander Gray (1889-1952) was a "businessman and philanthropist of Winston-Salem, N.C. He served in high-level executive capacities with Wachovia National Bank and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company."[1]

"Bowman Gray Jr. ... was chairman of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. in the 1960s and his father [Bowman Gray, Sr., brother of James Alexander Gray] was the tobacco company founder's original business partner."[2]

"A local writer once said the moving forces behind the hyphenated city were 'the Salem conscience and the Winston purse.' The Moravians established a tradition of diligence, resourcefulness, piety, and charity. The city's capitalists--chief among them the Reynolds, Hanes, and Gray families--built the greatest industrial center south of Richmond and east of Mississippi. Wachovia Bank and Trust Company grew into one of the best-run banks in the country. P. H. Hanes Knitting Company became the nation's greatest producer of knitwear. R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company imported so much cigarette paper and tobacco that Winston-Salem--200 miles inland--was declared a port of entry. During its heyday, the company paid its local taxes by delivering a truckload of money to the courthouse steps--daily."[3]


  • 21 August 1889: Born in Winston-Salem, N.C., the son of James Alexander and Aurelia Bowman Gray.
  • 1908: Received A.B. degree from the University of North Carolina.
  • 1908-1910: Worked as a clerk at Wachovia National Bank.
  • 1911-1918: Assistant treasurer of Wachovia Bank and Trust Company. In 1915, he was made treasurer and, in 1918, he was elected vice-president. He served continuously as a director until his death.
  • 1915-1916: Served as highway commissioner of Forsyth County.
  • 1917-1920: Member of the North Carolina Senate and chair of the Finance Committee during his two terms.
  • 1918: Married Pauline Lisette Bahnson of Winston-Salem. They had six children: James Alexander Gray, Jr.; Bahnson Gray; Howard Gray; Chrisitine Gray; Pauline Gray; and Aurelia Gray.
  • 1920: Joined the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company as vice-president and director.
  • 1934: Elected president of R.J. Reynolds and served in that capacity until 1946.
  • 1946-1949: Chair of the Executive Committee of R.J. Reynolds. Elected chair of the Board of Directors in 1949 and served in that position until his death.
  • 1947: Established a $1,700,000 endowment fund for the benefit of eleven North Carolina colleges and universities.
  • 29 October 1952: Died of a heart attack in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

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