CLAY, GRADY EDWARD JR., 96, writer, gardener, and urbanist, died Sunday, March 17, 2013 in Hosparus Care at the Norton Healthcare Pavilion.
He died of an inoperable blood clot in his right leg. In his last days, he continued to cheer and entertain his family and friends with stories, poems, songs, kisses and eloquent hand-gestures.
Clay grew up in Atlanta, earning a bachelor's degree from Emory University. After gaining his masters in journalism from Columbia University he hitch-hiked to Louisville in 1939 for a job interview with the Louisville Times. Earning $25 a week he first did general reporting.
In 1942, he joined the Army
at Fort Knox and soon became the distribution officer of the European Edition of Yank Magazine, a job he got because of his rotogravure experience at the Courier. He received a purple heart
at Anzio due to a shell fragment. One of his favorite stories involved his getting into Rome and successfully requisitioning the paper supply of the Vatican. He was later promoted to Captain and placed in charge of the Alaska Edition.
Returning to the Courier, he was the real estate editor and the urban affairs editor until 1966. During this time he was honored by a Neiman Fellowship at Harvard in 1948-49, studying mostly with historians and landscape architects. He became the editor of Landscape Architecture Magazine, and continued as an author into his 90s. His sonorous, Georgia-accented voice was known widely from his weekly radio commentary "Crossing the American Grain".
Clay authored five books, a stack of articles 30 inches high, and innumerable pieces in the Louisville Times, Courier-Journal and Landscape Architecture. With his combination of vast knowledge and polite persuasion, he was elected the president of the National Association of Real Estate Editors and later the National Association of Planning Officials. the American Society of Landscape Architects awarded him the Olmsted Medal in 1999 and the Bradford Williams Medal (for writing) in 2006. He received numerous awards and citations in Louisville. Each year the Center for Neighborhoods gives the Grady Clay Award in his honor.
He touched the lives of many Americans by chairing the selection committee for the design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, whose powerful statement he vigorously defended in an era of controversy. He also chaired the Kent State Memorial selection committee and was a design juror for the Patriots Peace Memorial on River Road.
Some of his papers are at the University of Louisville. His journals and other papers going back to 1939 are in the archives of the Loeb Library at Harvard.
He is survived by Judith McCandless, his wife of 36 years; son, Grady E. Clay III of Denver, son, Ted and daughter-in-law, Colleen Horner of Ashland, OR, and son, Peter and daughter-in-law, Susan Endicott of Cortez, CO. He is also survived by his sister, Eleanor Calhoun of Atlanta; and grandchildren, David Horner Clay, Paul Hilliard Clay, Carrie Ann Clay and John Thomas Clay.
A memorial service will be held at St. Matthews Episcopal Church, Saturday, March 23, at 11 a.m., followed by a reception.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Louisville Free Public Library Foundation, the Kentucky Civil Liberties Union Foundation or the Kentucky Natural Lands Trust.