One of the world’s most successful science fiction and fantasy writers, Ray has sold eight million books translated into 36 languages.
His bestselling book, “Fahrenheit 451,” first published in 1953 and made into a movie in 1966 is still often read and discussed in high schools and colleges across the globe.
But here is the most interesting fact of all for anyone who ever dreamed of becoming successful without a college education: Ray never went beyond his high school diploma.
When he graduated from Los Angeles High School in 1938, it was during the Great Depression and his parents couldn’t afford to send him to college. But Ray dreamed of becoming a writer and he refused to let his dream die.
So what did Ray do? He went to libraries and bookstores and read voraciously. Ray was taught to write by such great writers as Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe, H.G. Wells, Ernest Hemingway and many others.
Yet early in his writing career, Ray had so little money, he wrote his classic, “Fahrenheit 451” at the UCLA library, renting their typewriters at 10 cents an hour. In all, it cost him $9.80 in rental fees to write this bestselling novel.
But as Ray’s books sold, and his magazine articles, plays and screenplays, were published including a screenplay for John Huston’s 1956 movie version of “Moby Dick,” starring Gregory Peck, Ray became famous and prosperous.
His screenplays for such TV shows as “The Twilight Zone,” and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” entertained audiences, and still do today in re-runs and they added to Ray’s prosperity and helped him provide well for his wife and four daughters.
Yet Ray was never into money. He lived a quiet life in the same home for more than 50 years in West Los Angeles. And as a result of seeing a severe car accident when he was a child, even in car crazy Los Angeles, Ray never learned to drive.
He could often be seen riding his bike, hair blowing in the breeze, as he looked out for traffic in his thick, dark rimmed glasses. When Ray needed to travel, he arranged for someone to drive him, or if a great distance was involved, he usually took the train.
When Ray wasn’t writing, he was often in libraries, schools, book stores, conferences or other public gatherings to sign his books and answer questions, taking whatever time and attention the public wished of him.
Ray also participated in library fund raisers for first and foremost, he loved books and he wanted the public to have easy and free access to them.
But in 1999, at the age of 79, Ray had the first of several strokes, and eventually was confined to a wheel chair.
Yet his mind remained sharp and he kept writing and kept making public appearances, writing his final magazine piece published by The New Yorker just weeks before he passed away at the age of 91, on June 5th, 2012.
Maggie, Ray’s wife of 56 years had predeceased him in 2003 and he is survived by their four daughters and eight grandchildren. But Ray is also survived by the millions of people who read his books and his other writings or watch the movies or TV shows he scripted..
In a 2009 lecture Ray gave at a San Gabriel Valley library celebrating its first anniversary, he told the audience to live their lives as he had lived his: “Do what you love and love what you do.”
And then he added, “If someone tells you to do something for money, tell them to go to Hell,” as the crowd cheered and laughed.