Francis Ray has always had a strong female influence in her life.
Her mother, Venora Radford of Corsicana, raised five children, helped farm with Francis’ dad, the late McClinton Radford Sr., and was one of the first African-American women to complete the LVN program at Navarro Memorial Hospital.
The family moved from Richland to Corsicana when the children were young, at Venora’s insistence, so they would have better schooling opportunities. Francis is a 1963 graduate of G.W. Jackson High School, and received a Collins Scholarship.
“I wanted to be a dancer, but mother said no — I would be a nurse,” Ray said. “The scholarship was a blessing, because my brother was also in college.”
A graduate of Texas Woman’s University, Francis is now a school nurse practitioner with the Dallas Independent School District. She and husband William H. Ray and daughter Carolyn Michelle live in Dallas.
Francis always loved books, and her mother encouraged that love in all her children. Venora gave little Francis a copy of “Grimm’s Fairy Tales,” and Francis continued the tradition with Carolyn. Francis wrote stories in college English class, and always got rave reviews. As an adult, she joined Romance Writers of America, and stuck with the group, even when friends bailed out.
“I wanted to read books where the women didn’t compromise their values, but instead, valued themselves and their bodies,” Ray said. “I decided to write what I wanted to read, and it took five years to get that done.”
Too, Ray wanted to see African-American heroines in romance novels. She set out to prove that these heroines could own companies, be smart and successful, and still have plenty of steamy romance.
Her first novel, “Fallen Angel,” was published in November 1992. Her sixth title, “Incognito,” was made into a television movie for BET (Black Entertainment Television), and is available on video at Wal-Mart. Ray now has more than 30 titles to her credit. She recently released “Chocolate Kisses,” an anthology featuring stories by herself and two other authors.
Ray also established The Turning Point Legal Fund with the release of “The Turning Point” in 2001, which assists victims of domestic violence with the restructuring of their lives. Portions of proceeds of “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow” and “Any Rich Man Will Do” also went to the legal fund.
A busy career as a school nurse in three different schools with approximately 600 students from pre-kindergarten to sixth grade limits the time Ray has to devote to her writing — but she still manages to crank out about three titles per year.
“Writing is more my passion,” Ray said. “I think I can reach more people. The programs on TV do not exemplify the African-Americans I know. The more people the books can reach, the better. I want to give positive images of what African-Americans are really like.”
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Corsicana native Ray uses romance novels to promote strong, African-American female ideals
Francis Ray has always had a strong female influence in her life.
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