William G. (Bill) Mays, owner and founder of Mays Chemical Company, died Thursday, December 4, 2014. The Evansville native passed away in Indianapolis on his 69th birthday.
Bill Mays, was a true entrepreneur and in the last third of the 20th Century Mays became Indiana’s most successful Black businessman. Mays established Mays Chemical in 1980 and it became one of the world’s largest chemical distributors.
At the time of his death, Mays Chemical was the sixteenth largest African-American owned Industrial/Service Company in the country, according to Black Enterprise Magazine. A company recognized as a source for chemicals, related raw materials and chemical management expertise.
In addition to his thriving chemical empire, Bill Mays’ entrepreneurial ventures included golf course, commercial business and residential properties and the historic Indianapolis Recorder newspaper. Indiana Governor Mike Pence led the tributes to Mays:
“The First Lady and I were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Bill Mays, a pillar of true strength within the Indianapolis community. From the success of his business to his unending generosity and invaluable leadership mentoring future generations, Bill touched the lives of countless Hoosiers and his contributions to the life of our state will be remembered always. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his beloved family and friends during this difficult time.”
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard said:
“Indianapolis has lost a titan of industry and philanthropy. Bill Mays was a great businessman, mentor, and leader in our community. My thoughts and prayers go to the Mays family and the many lives he touched.”
From Congressman Andre Carson:
“We lost a leader who dedicated his life to our community. As a businessman, philanthropist, and activist, Bill Mays helped improve the lives of countless Hoosiers throughout his life. I pray that God gives peace and comfort to his wife, Rose, his daughters Kristin and Heather, and to the countless others for whom Bill is ‘family.’”
But it’s not just local dignitaries who respected this Indianapolis business mogul. Alfred C. Liggins, President and CEO of Radio One, Inc. (parent company of this website) released the following statement on the passing of William G. Mays:
“The Radio One Family is deeply saddened by the passing of William (Bill) Mays. He was a business icon – a gentle giant that perfectly embodied the genius and the generosity that great men are made of. Radio One purchased Bill’s Indianapolis stations in 2000 and he in turn became a shareholder and friend. No one conducted business like Bill. He was a dominant force in Indiana to be respected and reckoned with. The Indianapolis community will miss him. The African-American community has lost a gem; and I will sorely miss the man I called friend. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during their time of bereavement.”
City-County Council President Maggie Lewis said:
“The city of Indianapolis, the state of Indiana and the nation mourns the loss of William G. Mays. While Mr. Mays achieved great success cultivating Mays Chemical Company into a global entity, you and I have benefited tremendously from his entrepreneurial vision and passion for helping those in need. Mr. Mays shattered many glass ceilings in our community, creating opportunities that have enriched the lives of numerous businesses owners, charitable organizations, and individuals throughout the country. His passing reminds us of how precious our lives are and the importance of living each day beyond our dreams. The life he lived and the legacy he has created will be felt for generations to come. My thoughts and prayers are with the entire Mays family, the employees of Mays Chemical Company, the Indianapolis Recorder and each and every person whose life has been changed for better because of him.”
One of three children born to parents who were teachers, Bill Mays graduated from Evansville’s Lincoln High School, Bill Mays attended Indiana University where he received his Bachelors Degree in 1970 and his MBA from IU in 1973. A devoted Indiana University alumnus, Mays received an Honorary Degree from IU in 2000 and served as a member of the IU Foundation.
Mays also received honorary degrees from Martin University, Marian University and the University of Evansville. From 1992 to 2000, Bill Mays, with his partner broadcasting legend Bill Shirk, owned and operated some of Indianapolis’ most iconic and successful radio and television stations.
Then Hoosier now Hot 96-3; then Kiss 106.7; Smooth Jazz 100.9 and WAV-TV/Channel 53 – Indianapolis’ first Black-owned over the air television station. Mays and Shirk later sold the stations to Radio One in 2000.
Bill Mays was one of Indianapolis’ most distinguished and civic leaders. Mays was the first African-American chairman of the board for the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce as well as the first and only black chairman of the annual campaign for the United Way of Central Indiana.
His leadership and generosity towards the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) was well known. Nationally, Mays served on the National Urban League Board and board of the National Minority Supplier Development Council and National Commission on Entrepeneurship. Bill Mays served as an initial member of the Indiana State Lottery Commission, becoming the first and only Black Chair of that Commission in 1991.
Mays was also a director of First Indiana Corporation, Anthem and Wellpoint and the Vectren Corporation. Mays served on so many non profit boards that the list is too extensive to mention here. One of the community institutions Bill Mays was proud of was his efforts on behalf of the Circle City Classic and his support of Indiana Black Expo.
Expo President/CEO Tanya Bell said of Mays:
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Bill Mays, who leaves an indelible legacy of entrepreneurship, community service and advocacy. Bill has always been an advocate for the African-American community and has invested and provided mentorship to numerous small businesses. As a visionary, he founded Mays Chemical and developed it into one of the world’s largest chemical distributors. Bill was an invaluable asset to Indiana Black Expo and the community of Indianapolis. He worked tirelessly to build Circle City Classic® and impact historically black colleges and universities for nearly 30 years. He will truly be missed.”
Besides the radio and television stations, Mays’ was proud to continue the stewardship of the Indianapolis Recorder, the 123 year old newspaper. Upon his passing, Shannon Williams, President of the Recorder said about Bill Mays:
“The entire state of Indiana is a little less great because Bill Mays is no longer with us. There are very few people who are as transparent, supportive and business-savvy as he was which makes his death even more difficult. I am grateful he had the insight and passion to purchase the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper at a time when it was at its most vulnerable. His efforts helped to preserve the history of African Americans in Indiana. The entire Recorder family mourns his passing while also celebrating his lasting legacy.”
Former Recorder President and now member of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, Caroline Mays-Medley, Bill Mays’ niece commented:
“The loss of Bill leaves a void in our hearts. Bill was a unique soul and generous spirit, with a one-of-a-kind personality. He was incredibly passionate about the community, entrepreneurship and of course family and friends. He was a true giant amongst us who was always willing to lend a helping hand or create opportunities for others. It was a blessing for us to be there with him as the angels took him home. My uncle Billy will be deeply missed for so many reasons; but for us, we miss him because of his love, compassion and many simple things – like his smile, his warm heart, and commitment to our family. We love him just for who he was.”
Mays is survived by his wife Dr. Rose Mays, retired associate dean of community affairs at Indiana University’s School of Nursing, daughters Kristin Mays-Corbitt, president of Mays Chemical and Heather Mays Woods, an educator. Upon his passing Dr. Mays said,
“Our family is deeply saddened by Bill’s death. Words cannot express the sense of loss we feel. We are extremely grateful for the community’s support over these past few weeks. Please continue to pray for us.”
Daughter Heather Mays Woods added,
“Dad was a wonderful man who positively impacted so many people’s lives. To the community he was an astute businessman, but to us he was a loving father and husband. We already miss him tremendously. We appreciate the support and privacy the community has given our family during this difficult time.”
At this time, details on funeral services for Mays have not yet been released.
Alfred C. Liggins, President and CEO of Radio One, Inc. released the following statement on the passing of William G. Mays, business mogul.
“The Radio One Family is deeply saddened by the passing of William (Bill) Mays. He was a business icon – a gentle giant that perfectly embodied the genius and the generosity that great men are made of. Radio One purchased Bill’s Indianapolis stations in 2000 and he in turn became a shareholder and friend. No one conducted business like Bill. He was a dominant force in Indiana to be respected and reckoned with. The Indianapolis community will miss him. The African-American community has lost a gem; and I will sorely miss the man I called friend.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during their time of bereavement.”