More than 50 years ago, Cecil Ray Jr. borrowed $15,000 to invest in an uncle’s insurance company, which dated to 1895 in Fort Worth.
Under Mr. Ray’s subsequent leadership, the company grew into The Rigg Group, a Fort Worth-based holding company with interests in insurance, underwriting, brokerage and premium finance, employing 525 people. Only last month, the last of the Rigg businesses was sold.
Despite his innate skills as a salesman and his commanding style, Mr. Ray knew he couldn’t do it alone and believed in recruiting the best, said Bill Meadows, whose father, Henry Meadows, was an early partner in Ray’s insurance and real estate company, Wm. Rigg Co.
Bill Meadows became an executive with the company.
“Cecil shared the wealth and brought people together,” Meadows said. “He took a sleepy old established insurance agency and began to diversify. He had little capital, but dreams and ambition and ideas. He just loved business.”
Mr. Ray, 82, died Wednesday. His service was Friday at Broadway Baptist Church.
He was born April 6, 1932, in Fort Worth to Cecil Ray Sr. and Buff Hassell Ray, whose family arrived in Fort Worth in a covered wagon about 1902 and whose father opened one of the first drugstores on Main Street, Mr. Ray told the Star-Telegram when his mother died in 1996.
Buff Ray’s sister Thelma “Sis” Rigg Mastin married William Rigg, the uncle with the insurance agency. Another sister, Mimi, married Charles F.A. McCluer of the former McCluer’s Luggage stores.
Mr. Ray graduated from Arlington Heights High School and Southern Methodist University.
The Rigg Group traced its roots to 1895, when Scottish immigrants founded Childress Co. in Fort Worth to insure properties financed by the Bank of Scotland. In 1910, the company brought in William Rigg, a successful Galveston insurer, as a partner. In 1955, Rigg became the principal owner of Glen Walker, Collett & Rigg.
With some sales experience at Leonards Department Store in downtown Fort Worth, Cecil Ray Jr. asked Rigg for a job. He was hired as an insurance salesman in 1957 with a monthly salary of $250. He also sold houses on the weekends to supplement his income, a business that was the beginnings of Wm. Rigg Realtors.
In 1963, Mr. Ray bought out his uncle, and a year later, the company was renamed Wm. Rigg Co.
Mr. Ray became principal owner in 1980. He expanded Rigg into all manner of insurance brokerage and finance and built what was one of Tarrant County’s largest residential real estate brokerage firms. The real estate brokerage, which did $500 million in business annually, was sold to Coldwell Banker in 1999.
Wm. Rigg Co. Insurance and RISC Inc. were sold in 2007 to Hub International. In October, Dallas-based AFS/IBEX Financial Services, which was founded by The Rigg Group in 1986 and grew to become one of the top 10 insurance premium finance companies in the U.S., was sold to MetaBank, a subsidiary of Meta Financial Group based in Sioux Falls, S.D.
Mr. Ray told the Star-Telegram in an interview 15 years ago that when he needed to relax, he went out on his 28-foot sailboat, named the Tenacity, on Lake Texoma.
But those who worked with him fondly recalled that Mr. Ray did not know how to relax and worked constantly.
“He worked on the weekends,” said Jay Scheideman, chief financial officer with The Rigg Group for 35 years. “It was his hobby. We tried to get him to play golf. He wasn’t bad, just a little dangerous.”
Joan Trew, a principal with the Williams Trew real estate brokerage in Fort Worth, who worked with Mr. Ray early in her career, said: “He was the ultimate professional, a fabulous employer. He always appreciated everything we did. He always had new ideas and new thoughts.”
Survivors include his wife, Carol Ray; a daughter, Mimi Ray Stephens; a stepson, Dr. William Cook; and five grandchildren.