RIVIERA BEACH – Riviera Beach activist and education advocate the Rev. Herman McCray Jr. died on April 16 following a massive stroke. He was 72.
McCray, an assistant pastor at Greater Bethel Primitive Baptist Church in Riviera Beach, was a tireless advocate for the city’s youth in arenas ranging from education to athletics.
A 1959 graduate of Roosevelt High School, McCray relentlessly pressured Palm Beach County School District officials on behalf of students, whether to end the busing of students to integrate schools outside the city, or lobbying school board officials to be more responsive to needs of area students.
“He’s all about the kids and the community,” it often was observed of McCray, who along with Dan Calloway, Donald Wilson and other community leaders organized the Riviera Beach Youth recreation Association in the mid-1960s to aid area youths’ path to college.
A civil-rights advocate since his early days in segregated Palm Beach County, McCray in his latter days still spoke softly about that history to visitors in his living room – and in straightforward terms in political chambers and board rooms.
In recognition of his many years of public service to Riviera Beach and West Palm Beach, the Congress Avenue flyover bridge that connects both cities was dedicated in 2010 to the U.S. Air Force veteran and former Sanitation superintendent for the city.
McCray was the founder of McCray’s Backyard BBQ, the family business operated in recent years by his son Derrick. He is survived by his wife, Lillian McCray a retired Palm Beach County Schools teacher; three sons, Derrick McCray, Sr., Demetrius McCray and Herman McCray, III and a sister Cynthia Morrow.