The entrepreneur, known as “Indiana’s most successful Black businessman,” William G. “Bill” Mays, died Thursday evening on his 69th birthday. Mays was the owner and founder of Mays Chemical Company and had many other entrepreneurial ventures over the years including radio stations, a television station, golf courses, commercial and residential properties, and the historic Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper—one of the nation’s oldest surviving black newspapers.
In addition to Mays’ business prowess, he was known for his leadership roles and his philanthropy. 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. He impacted many boards, committees and organizations ranging from the Indiana Minority Health Coalition to Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. to the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee.
As news of the Evansville native’s passing spread, reactions have come in. From beloved family members to others impacted in the community, read many of their reactions below:
“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.”
– Dr. Rose Mays, wife of William “Bill” Mays
“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.”
– Kristin Mays-Corbitt, daughter and president of Mays Chemical Company
“Bill was a unique soul with a one-of-a-kind personality. He was incredibly passionate about the community, entrepreneurship and of course his family. He was a true giant amongst us who was always willing to lend a helping hand or create opportunities for others. He will be deeply missed.”
-Carolene Mays-Medley, niece and Indiana Utility Regulatory Commissionner
“Tonight, 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.”
-Rep. André Carson, D-Indiana.
“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.”
-Gregory Ballard, Mayor of Indianapolis
“Today, 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.”
-Maggie A. Lewis, President, Indianapolis City-County Council
-Jose Evans, Councilor, Indianapolis City-County Council
“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.”
-Tanya Bell, President and CEO, Indiana Black Expo
“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.”
-Shannon Williams, President, Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper
“Yesterday, Indianapolis and the state of Indiana lost a great man. Bill Mays was a forward thinking, visionary leader whose entrepreneurial ventures reached worldwide acclaim. He paved the way for many African-American business and community leaders, and he was one of the most respected business leaders of our time. I personally had the pleasure of working directly with Bill while leading the Circle City Classic. His guidance and support helped the Circle City Classic to become one of the most successful events of its kind in the nation. Bill was also a strong supporter of the Indianapolis Urban League. The thoughts and prayers of the board of directors and staff of the Indianapolis Urban League are with his wife, Rose and the entire Mays family during this difficult time.”
-Tony Mason, President and CEO, Indianapolis Urban League
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.