In Memoriam: Grady Clay



We are sad to report that longtime board member, mentor and nationally recognized journalist and writer, Grady Clay, passed away on March 17 in Louisville, Kentucky. Grady was instrumental in helping to establish The Competition Project, and, subsequently, COMPETITIONS  as a quarterly magazine. It was with his continued support and encouragement that we were able to establish our publication and place in reporting on the national and international state of competitions. Grady made things easy for us from the very beginning, getting an interview with landscape architect, George Hargreaves for our very first issue. Whenever any question arose about an article, or a suitable headline, Grady was always there to pass on his invaluable advice.


Clay grew up in Atlanta, earning a bachelor’s degree from Emory University. After gaining his masters in journalism from Columbia University he hitch-hiked to Louisville in 1939 for a job interview with the Louisville Times. His first job as a reporter brought him $25 a week.
In 1942, he joined the Army and soon became the distribution officer of the European Edition of Yank Magazine, a job he got because of his rotogravure experience at the Courier-Journal. He received a purple heart at Anzio due to a shell fragment. One of his favorite stories involved his getting into Rome and successfully requisitioning the paper supply of the Vatican.

Returning to the Courier, he was the real estate editor and the urban affairs editor until 1966. During this time he was honored by a Neiman Fellowship at Harvard in 1948-49, studying mostly with historians and landscape architects. He became the editor of Landscape Architecture magazine, and continued as an author into his 90s. His sonorous, Georgia-accented voice was known widely from his weekly radio commentary “Crossing the American Grain” on local public radio.

Grady authored five books, a stack of articles 30 inches high, and innumerable pieces in the Louisville Times, Courier-Journal and Landscape Architecture. With his combination of vast knowledge and polite persuasion, he was elected the president of the National Association of Real Estate Editors and later the National Association of Planning Officials. The American Society of Landscape Architects awarded him the Olmsted Medal in 1999 and the Bradford Williams Medal (for writing) in 2006.

He touched the lives of many Americans by chairing the selection committee for the design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, whose powerful statement he vigorously defended in an era of controversy. He also chaired the Kent State Memorial selection committee and was a design juror numerous competitions, including the Olympia Fields Mitchell Park competition, Williamsburg planning competition, and numerous others.
Most of Grady’s journals and other papers going back to 1939 are in the archives of the Loeb Library at Harvard, the majority having been digitized.