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Mourning the Loss of Indianapolis Philanthropist Bill Mays

We recently learned of the untimely passing of a towering figure in the business and philanthropic communities right here in our home town of Indianapolis.

About Bill Mays

William “Bill” Mays was the owner and founder of Mays Chemical Co., and was widely referred to as “Indiana’s most successful black businessman.” He was also the former owner and publisher of The Indianapolis Recorder, the weekly newspaper serving the black community.

Mays Chemical Co. was one of the nation’s 20 largest minority-owned companies, while The Recorder was one of the nation’s oldest black newspapers. Under his leadership since 1990, the paper grew from about 10,000 to almost 100,000 readers weekly.

Mays was also a dedicated philanthropist and community advocate. He was the first African-American chairman of the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce and the first African-American appointed chairman of the Indiana Lottery Commission. He invested significantly in both money and time in over 100 companies, mostly minority- or women-owned, and donated millions of dollars to philanthropic causes.

Mays’ service on the boards of for-profit and nonprofit groups was unimpeachable, including the National Urban League, the National Commission on Entrepreneurship, the United Negro College Fund, Indiana University Foundation and Indiana University President’s Council, and the Coca-Cola Circle City Classic.

A native of Evansville, IN, Mays achieved his B.A. in chemistry and a master’s degree in business administration from Indiana University. Mays died on Friday, December 5, 2014, on his 69th birthday.

From the Community

The outpouring of sympathy and condolences from around the Indianapolis business, nonprofit and political community was immediate and heartfelt.

In a written statement, Indiana Black Expo CEO Tanya Bell said, Mays “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.” He 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 for 30 years. He will truly be missed,” Bell said.

In 2012, Indianapolis Business Journal writer Robin Winston called Mays “a role model to business, community, civic and faith-based leaders,” and a “continued presence and adviser to countless entrepreneurs and socially active groups in our community.”

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard said, “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.”

Our Condolences

As citizens of Indianapolis and as people Team Givelify is saddened by the loss of such a groundbreaking, hard-working and generous person. We offer our sincere condolences to his family, friends and peers. We strive to live up to what Bell described as “an indelible legacy of entrepreneurship, community service and advocacy.”


About the Author

Matt is dedicated to making the world a better place. He works passionately to help charitable causes use mobile technology to raise the funds they need. In addition to his role at Givelify, he volunteers with the Southside Animal Shelter and Kentuckiana Pug Rescue.

Matt Chandler