Ray Reece was a teacher, journalist, activist and author. He received his undergraduate degree in English and Journalism from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth and earned a master’s degree in English from the University of Chicago in 1965.
Ray Reece arrived in Austin, Texas in 1966 and described Austin as simply the most alluring place he had ever seen. In his own words, he loafed at Lake Travis on fabulous shelves of limestone and the only crowds were those of birds; gathered with friends at Scholz’s, the historic beer garden, and filled the sultry summer air with passionate debates and loud celebrations of ideas for further advances in civilization; danced at parties spontaneously conceived; and swam at midnight in Barton Springs, the lock on the gate be damned. Though Ray lived in places as far flung from Austin as Hungary and Italy over the years, he always returned home to Austin.
Ray’s activist work began with the Viet Nam anti-war movement in the 1960’s while a graduate student at the University of Texas. After moving to New York in 1968 to be an English teacher at Lehman’s College, Ray helped to lead a six-week strike on campus that was triggered by the U.S. invasion of Cambodia.
After returning to Austin in 1973, Ray Reece campaigned against the South Texas Nuclear Project and was a major force in the creation of the City of Austin conservation and renewable energy programs. An early proponent of solar energy, Ray’s book “The Sun Betrayed: A Report on the Corporate Seizure of U.S. Solar Energy Development” was published in 1979. He was a founding member of the City of Austin Renewable Energy Resources Commission and wrote an energy master plan for Austin under a city contract in 1983.
Working for the preservation of a green belt along Austin’s Town Lake (now known as Lady Bird Lake), Ray was a leading member of the Town Lake Park Alliance (TLPA). Ray was instrumental in derailing plans to build a convention center on the south shore of Town Lake and the negotiation of the location of the current convention center site. These efforts were rewarded with the creation of Butler Park and permanently preserving the area around Butler Park as parkland.
As a journalist in Austin, Ray’s investigative reporting for the West Austin News in the early 1990’s was one of the influential factors in delaying the City’s voter-authorized construction of a new airport in Manor until the Air Force was able to turn Bergstrom Air Force Base over to the City of Austin. Many Austin political insiders active at the time of the “Move It to Bergstrom” initiative believe the airport would not be in its present location were it not for Ray’s tireless and often provocative efforts.
Wherever in the world Ray found himself, he always fought for sustainable development even when it bordered on utopia because of his steadfast conviction that without utopia, the future is blind. Ray lived in Cagli, a small town in Central Italy, from 2002 to 2011. As a member of the Contemporaneo Association in Cagli, he spearheaded work on a long-range alternative development plan which emphasized slow growth and renewable energy as well as conservation and local control of local resources.
In his decades long career as a journalist, Ray’s byline appeared in publications that included Mother Jones, New West, Austin Sun, Environmental Action, American Preservation, Texas Southwest, The National Guardian, Texas Architect, Texas Observer, West Austin News and The Budapest Sun.
Ray’s somewhat autobiographical novel, “Abigail in Gangland,” was published in 2007 in the United States and had previously been published in Hungary in 2005 as “Go Play with Your Aunt!”
At the time of his passing, Ray was a long serving board member of the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems, a non-profit education, research, and demonstration organization specializing in green planning and design.
Because of his steadfast belief in the necessity of sustainable development and the power of the written word to change the world, Ray provided a generous financial gift to reward excellence in environmental journalism through the creation of the Ray Reece Environmental Journalism Foundation.