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Cloninger Inducted Into J.D. Massey Classic Hall Of Fame

Editor's Note: The following speech was read by Peter Fenton on Saturday, April 24, 2004 at the J. D. Massey Classic Horse Show.

We gather tonight to add yet another honor to the long list of those received by the J.D. Massey Classic’s 16-plus year horse show manager, Mr. Ray Cloninger.

Since Ray was appointed manager of his first horse show in 1969 (because he was president of his local Optimist Club, and had experience with horses and going to horse shows), his reputation for putting on a top-notch horse show has grown by leaps and bounds. He manages or has managed such award winning shows as the Tar Heel Classic, J.D. Massey Classic, Southeastern Charity, Asheville Lions Club Benefit, N.C. State Championship, National Academy Championship, Challenge of Champions, Dallas Spring and Fall Classics, Carolina Classic, and Raleigh Spring Premier. His managerial style played a major role in two shows bringing home the UPHA’s National Honor Show Award. Those were N.C. State Championship in 1983, and Southeastern Charity in 1986. In 2004, he is managing for the first time the long running St. Louis National Charity Horse Show.

Those in Denver, North Carolina, and in his 40-year career at Duke Power, from which he retired in 1994, know another Ray Cloninger. He is serious about his religion, very civic minded, extremely big hearted and generous of spirit, and a devoted family man. Ray got his start with horses, as did many in rural North Carolina, by plowing with one. Through the years he has ridden and driven, and has a history with quarter horses, Tennessee Walking Horses, Hackney ponies and roadsters, and of course, the American Saddlebred.

He has been married to his wife Ann for 48 years. They were blessed with four children, Cindy, Ginger, Karla and Kenton. Ginger tragically lost her battle with cancer at age 15 and was the one in the family who cared the most about horses. Ray will quickly tell you “Ginger has given me inspiration over the years. If you can face that situation, you can face anything in the world.” Ray is a fan of all sports, loves to play golf, and is a big major league baseball follower. His understanding of sports and competition and the emotions involved in them, along with his soft spoken way of approaching people, to listen and offer a helping hand, has contributed greatly to his managing success over the past 35 years.

If you want to see a real spark in his eye, however, ask Ray about his 2 1/2 year old granddaughter, Reagan Cloninger, and her pony Beauty. You will quickly learn that Reagan’s visits to Paw Paw’s house to feed her pony are what really excites him.

In 1993, Ray received the Herman Miles Horse Show Manager of the Year Award from UPHA. In 2003 he was inducted into the UPHA Chapter 12 Hall of Fame and now he joins an impressive group of “people who have made a positive contribution to the J.D. Massey Classic Horse Show” as he is inducted into their Hall of Fame. Welcome, Ray Cloninger.

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