John Ray Nelson


John Ray Nelson was born May 14, 1926 in Mobile, AL, and died peacefully at home March 11, 2021. He was a lifelong resident of Bon Secour, AL. In 1944, John Ray enlisted in the U. S. Navy and served aboard the USS Kennebago in the Pacific Theater of WWII. Upon returning home from the War, John Ray finished school and began to build, with his father John A. Nelson, the family business, Bon Secour Fisheries, Inc. The seafood harvesting, processing and distribution company became one of the largest of its kind in the Southeastern US. At one time the company, with almost 80 vessels homeported there, boasted the largest shrimping fleet on the Gulf Coast. In 1950, John Ray married Jane E. Byrne, an English teacher at Foley High School, revered by many. Jane was the love of his life and the secret to his success until her passing in 2008. John Ray was an active member of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Bon Secour and served as a lay minister there from 1941 until 2008. He was a prominent member of several seafood industry trade organizations including the Oyster Institute of North America, National Fisheries Institute and Southeastern Fisheries Association. As Alabama’s Governor Appointee, he served on the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission for over two decades and was given the Charles H. Lyles award in 1988 for “outstanding contributions in the advancement and betterment of fisheries of the Gulf of Mexico”. In 2001, the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce recognized a lifetime of entrepreneurial achievement by naming him the Walton M. Vines Free Enterprise Person of the Year. John Ray was known for his grit and determination as well as his tremendous generosity toward his church and the community. He is survived by three sons, John Andrew Nelson (Mary Murchison), David Byrne Nelson (Pud), Christopher Lee Nelson (Susan); grandchildren, David C. Nelson, Dr. Mary Marks Nelson, Elizabeth N. Nelson, Dr. E. Lockett Nelson, Emily I. Nelson, Andrew S. Nelson and many nieces and nephews. A graveside service will be held at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church Cemetery, Bon Secour at 10:00 AM on Wednesday March 17th. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to St. Peter’s Episcopal Church or St. Peter’s Church Cemetery Fund PO Box 29 Bon Secour, AL 36511.