S1c William James Jr. Gray,


S1c William James Jr. Gray

William James Gray Jr., was born Nov. 12, 1914 in Los Angeles, California. His father was identified in the 1920 Census as an engineer on road work from Utah and his mother, Mary Elizabeth Patton Gray, as a homemaker. She was from Mexico. The  family lived in Liberty about 40 miles northwest of San Francisco.

By 1930 the family had settled in Long Beach, where the father was a laborer for a paving company.

The son, known as Billy, graduated in 1933 from Long Beach Polytechnic HIgh. He participated in a speech contest, the military club, Junior ROTC, and one year was secretary of the “Young Scribblers,” a club for writers.

He was still with his family when the spring 1940 Census was conducted. He worked 50 weeks the previous year as a door-to-door coffee salesman and earned $1,000. That’s equal to about $18,600 in 2020 and was good money for a young man during the Great Depression. An 18-year-old brother earned the same amount as a grocery store clerk, and a 21-year-old sister earned about half as much as a malt-shop waitress.. The three of them supported a household of eight.

Mr. Gray junior enlisted in the Navy on Nov. 1, 1940. He was a seaman first class on the U.S.S. Arizona when he was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.

Sources: draft registration card; Census; Navy muster roll. Photo from the Long Beach Polytechnic High yearbook. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.
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