In Memoriam: Burton C. Gray

This magazine lost a very dear friend in October with the untimely death of Burton Gray, at the age of 48. Burton was a longtime supporter of the Reason Foundation and for the past six years served as one of its trustees. In many ways, he was an ideal trustee. He possessed a deep interest in and understanding of the philosophy of liberty. But he also had extensive business and financial experience and years of experience on nonprofit boards. So he was able to offer advice and counsel on every aspect of the foundation’s operations, as well as faithful financial support.

If anyone met the definition of a Renaissance man, it was Burton. A Yale graduate (class of ’62), he did graduate work in economics at the University of Chicago. But he was eternally fascinated by mathematics and philosophy, financial markets and technology. He was a founder and chief financial officer of Scientific Time Sharing, one of the first computer time-sharing firms. He was the first person I knew to travel with a transportable PC—and the first to have software to do fractal geometry. His reading was voracious and wide- ranging. Among his favorites were Godel, Escher, Bach; the science fiction of Robert A. Heinlein; and the works of economist F.A. Hayek and political philosopher Michael Oakeshott.

One of Burton’s proudest achievements was serving on the staff of the Gates Commission, which made the case for abolishing the draft. That was his only direct involvement with public policy-making, though he was in regular contact with many of those involved in this arena. His father, Gordon Gray, served as Truman’s secretary of the army, and his brother Boyden is White House counsel. As a lifelong advocate of liberty, Burton was excited by recent developments in Eastern Europe. He visited Poland last year, and he was deeply involved in the efforts of the Sabre Foundation (of which he was president) to arrange large-scale donations of books and farm equipment to people and organizations in Poland.

His family has suggested that memorial gifts may be made to the Reason Foundation or the Sabre Foundation. We are setting up a special Burton Gray memorial fund at the Reason Foundation to foster long-term programs, as he would have wanted. He will be sorely missed. 

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