William “Bill” Mays, an entrepreneur, philanthropist and community servant who had an engaging, charismatic personality coupled with bold professional astuteness passed away Dec. 4, 2014. It was his 69th birthday.
While Mays was known as Indiana’s most successful African-American entrepreneur, the racial attribution comes second to the businessman’s professional prowess. Undoubtedly, Mays was one of the smartest, most talented business leaders around…period.
And while his life’s achievements are too vast to identify individually, Indiana Minority Business Magazine, thought it only fitting to highlight some of its publisher’s major professional accomplishments.
December 4, 1945 – William Gerard Mays is born in Evansville, Ind. to Theodore Mays Sr. and Joy Mays. His birth signified history in the making.
1960 – In high school, “Bill” thrived in sports, participated in choir, band, French Club, and served as president of his class. However, science and chemistry were always his passion; a not so uncommon trait considering his father was a high school chemistry teacher.
1968 – Bill married Rose Cole on April 6. The two met at Alexander AME Church in Evansville. Rose was a constant supporter of Bill’s and even helped finance his first company.
1968 – 1971 – Worked as a salesman for Procter & Gamble.
1973 – Earned an MBA in finance and marketing from IU Kelley School of Business. Prior to that, he earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Indiana University.
1973 – 1977 – Served as assistant to the president at Cummins Engine Company.
1977 – Became president of Specialty Chemicals Inc.
1980 – Ventured out on his own and founded Mays Chemical Company. For the first year, the company was a one-man operation, with Mays doing all components of the company himself.
1984 – Mays Property Management was formed.
1985 – Bill partnered with R.N. Thompson on Gray Eagle golf course and housing developments.
1985 – Mays Chemical Co. acquires Specialty Chemicals, the company Bill previously parted ways with after disagreeing with its corporate policies.
1990 – Bill purchased the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper to save a legacy in the African-American community. The year 2015 commemorates the Recorder’s 120th year in existence.
1991 – Gov. Evan Bayh recognized Bill’s vast achievements with the distinguished Sagamore of the Wabash award. The Sagamore is the highest honor an Indiana civilian can receive.
1991 – This was a year of firsts for Bill Mays. In 1991 he was appointed the first Black chairman of the Indiana Lottery Commission by Gov. Evan Bayh and he was also named the first Black campaign chairman of United Way of Central Indiana.
1993 – Bill made his entry into radio by becoming the majority owner of IBL LLC and part owner of Shirk Inc. with broadcaster Bill Shirk. Media holdings included WHHH-FM, WBKS-FM and WYJZ-FM, which were sold to Radio One seven years later for a reported $40 million. The “Bill and Bill” venture led to radio properties that continue operation on the Hawaiian Islands.
1993 – Served as chairman of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.
2001 – Mays Chemical Co. was recognized as Black Enterprise’s Company of the Year.
2006 – Mays Chemical and Chemico Systems form a joint venture. ChemicoMays LLC becomes one of the largest privately-owned chemical management services joint ventures in the company.
2007 – Bill Mays accomplished what very few Hoosiers ever have: He received a second Sagamore of the Wabash. This time, the honor came from Gov. Mitch Daniels.
2008 – Mays Chemical Co. exceeds $200 million in sales.
2010 – Mays Chemical Co. celebrates 30 years of business.
2011 – Partnered with Kimberly Hendren to co-own Granite City restaurant at Indianapolis International Airport.
2011 – Bill retires as CEO of Mays Chemical Co. and settles in as the company’s chairman.
2013 – Mays Chemical Co. is ranked one of the top 10 largest chemical distributers in North America. In 2013, the company was also listed in the Top 20 of Black Enterprise’s Top 100 businesses.
2014 – Bill received the coveted MBE Clarion Award from the National Minority Supplier Development Council. The award honors elite minority business leaders who have an established record of success that exceeds 20 years.