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Robert Ray, Barred From Florida School in 1986 Over AIDS, Dies

October 21, 2000|From Associated Press

SARASOTA, Fla. — Robert Ray, one of three AIDS-exposed hemophiliac brothers who won a court battle 13 years ago to return to public school only to be burned out of their home by an arsonist, died Friday. He was 22.

Ray, infected through contaminated blood products used to treat his hemophilia, died at All Children's Hospital of complications from both diseases, the St. Petersburg hospital said in a statement.

Ray had become engaged earlier this year, but he and his fiancee postponed the nuptials that had been planned for December.

"He just wanted to be a husband and a father. It wasn't like he wanted something great out of life. He just wanted to be normal," his father, Clifford Ray, told the Sarasota Herald Tribune.

Robert, Ricky and Randy Ray gained widespread attention in 1986 when they were barred from attending class with other students in Arcadia in southwest Florida after their parents told school officials of their sons' condition.

They returned to school in 1987 under court order. Angry parents distributed petitions and sponsored rallies in attempts to keep the boys out of regular classes, and days later, the Ray home was gutted in an arson.

The family moved to Sarasota, where the boys were welcomed by fellow students, although a few parents protested the transfer.

Their highly publicized plight paralleled that of another young hemophiliac AIDS patient, Ryan White, in Indiana. He died in 1990.

Robert's older brother, Ricky, died of complications from AIDS in 1992. He was 15. The youngest brother, 21-year-old Randy, has AIDS but does not show symptoms and remains active.

Robert Ray had been heavily sedated and on a respirator since Monday, while doctors tried to control excessive bleeding.

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