High Point lost a most courageous and compassionate leader this week when Ray McAllister crossed over the river to be reunited with his beloved wife, son and Savior.  We owe a lot to men like Ray for he represented a generation that taught us so much about sacrifice, servant leadership and courage during very challenging times.

He was a man of dignity, he respected and loved others well and he believed there was always a way to accomplish goals in a manner that was fair, just and true for everyone.

One of the fringe benefits of my job as President of the High Point Community Foundation is that for the past 18 years I have worked with and been mentored by the finest leaders in High Point.  Ray McAllister was one of those leaders who invested in me, who taught me and who had very high expectations of me that I always strove to meet.

Ray served as a Trustee on our Board and played a key role on our Grants Committee which has been and continues to be the “flagship” program of our Foundation.  He understood that the Grants program was a very visible and tangible representation of our values, principals and beliefs.  Because of Ray’s innate sense of fairness and commitment to social justice he always helped us stay true to these values.

I learned very early in my relationship with Ray that he was a man who led with his conscience, compassion and integrity. He was never afraid to stand up for something he believed in, but he did so with grace and respect.  He taught me that passion matters, that people matter and that each of us can and must be instruments of positive change in our community.

I personally saw this commitment in Ray’s groundbreaking work with the establishment of High Point’s Urban Boy Scouts program. I have also heard many stories about his leadership and cool head during times of racial turbulence in our city.  As my friend, Bill Goodman, once told me, “He was the man who kept the pots from boiling over.” Because of his quiet and unassuming leadership he consistently served as a solid bridge between the African-American and White communities.  His credibility and currency in both communities was firmly grounded in his authenticity and respect for others. I attribute much of the racial healing and progress we have experienced over the years to the wisdom and courage of men like Ray, Dr. Otis Tillman and Bob Brown.

Ray was a constant reminder of those verses found in the Gospel of Luke which tell us that “To whom much is given, much is expected.” He believed in young people and had long been a champion for those kids in our city who went without.  He was a steadfast role-model for those who needed a strong father figure and he had very high standards that he expected from those he helped.  

Ray’s life has had, and will continue to have, a profound impact upon so many in this community; however, the day I truly understood the depth of his greatness was the time he had me over to his home and I saw how he cared for his chronically ill wife.  You can tell so much about a man by the way he loves and cares for his wife.  I had never seen a more considerate and gentle caretaker and from that day on he would always be one of my heroes.

We can never afford to lose men like Ray McAllister, but I believe the seeds he sowed and the example he set will produce more like him, and for that I am grateful.  God bless you, my friend, I wish you fair winds and calm seas on your final journey home.

Photograph courtesy of High Point University.