Raymond ""Uncle Ray"" Murphy
BORN TO ENTERTAIN
In the early 1940s, a fortuneteller revealed to the matriarch of the Murphys’ that one day someone in her family would be a world-famous entertainer. Almost immediately, her children Henry Roosevelt, William Leroy, James Earl, Virginia Mae, Raymond “Ray” Leon and Charles Edward began applying their varied talents – singing, tap dancing and comedy. In anticipation of becoming that superstar, Ray teamed up with his brother Leroy, and formed “The Comedy of Roy and Ray.” Challenges preceded them. Blacks were systematically barred from performing without a partner and minstrel shows represented the only performing opportunities of any kind. However, taking on the racial inequalities on the comedy circuit, Ray remained optimistic about his future in entertainment and formed the Doo Wop group “The Akrons.”
AN ENTERPRISING LIFE
Born November 27, 1938, in Brooklyn, NY to Rosa and Henry R. Murphy, Sr., Raymond wore many hats throughout his lifetime. He attended the New York School of Printing High School; worked various jobs in the garment district; served his country in the U.S. Army; owned two bars and a nightclub, including the famous “Sugar Rays” (as he was also known); and served as Borough Coordinator of School Safety for the Board of Education. In his role with the school board, he provided leadership and guidance to those charged with keeping New York’s students safe, and was instrumental in formalizing system-wide programs such as its first School Safety Training Academy, which was implemented in schools nationwide.
A PROPHECY FULFILLED
The early 1980s marked a pivotal point in Ray’s life. A premonition more than four decades old was finally realized when his nephew, Eddie Murphy, became one of the biggest stars in the world. This fulfilled prophecy afforded those close to Eddie the opportunity to share in the spotlight. Ray’s security expertise kicked in one night after a sold-out show at Radio City Music Hall, and from there, it was history. Keeping family close, Uncle Ray became Eddie’s head of security.
AN UNTAMED TALENT
However, unable to mask his natural talent, Uncle Ray’s’ skills didn’t go unnoticed. Oftentimes, requested to perform and entertain, Uncle Ray made appearances in several of Eddie’s blockbuster films including Harlem Nights (loosely based on Club Sugar Rays), Coming to America and Beverly Hills Cop 2, for which he is also credited as associate producer. Additionally, he hosted HBO’s “Uptown Comedy Express.” Considered the blueprint for Def Comedy Jam, “Uptown Comedy Express” was instrumental in launching the careers of notables such as Chris Rock, Arsenio Hall, Marsha Warfield and Barry Sobel.
Ray was the life of the party. In Hollywood, he became everyone’s favorite uncle. With an honest and frank comedic style, Uncle Ray opened for both of his nephews -- Eddie and Charlie Murphy. Further solidifying his comedic chops, Uncle Ray appeared on the Dick Cavett Show and Arsenio Hall Show. However, one of the most memorable moments was when he sent the audience into an explosion of laughter during the Cinema Tech Ball Awards Show, where he roasted Whoopi Goldberg.
In retirement, he remained active working closely with NYPD’s Chief of Police Phillip Banks and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly as a NYPD Community Council board member. And if you were lucky, you might catch him polishing up his comedy routine at any one of several New York comedy clubs.
In 2001 he was baptized at Calvary Baptist Church in Jamaica Queens, where he remained a member until his death.
A LEGACY OF LOVE
A loving family man, entertainer and public servant, Raymond L. Murphy, died on Tuesday, October 15, 2013 at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway, NY at the age of 74. He is preceded in death by his first wife, Rena D. Mitchell with whom he raised three children: Raymond Jr., Rama (Tracy) and Richard. He married his second wife Marian J. Jeffries (deceased) and embraced her two children, Curtis (deceased) and Sandra Jeffries, as his very own.
He is survived by two sons and their spouses: Raymond, Jr. and Kim, and Richard and Monica; three daughters: Alison Reeder, Rama and her spouse Charles Brown, and Valerie Simms-Dixon and her spouse, Jeff; four siblings: Henry Murphy, Virginia Crews, James (Gracie) Murphy and Mamie Williams; 15 grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins and close friends.