- Published: 22 March 2013 22 March 2013
Grady Edward Clay Jr., 96, former editor-in-chief of Landscape Architecture and chair of the design jury for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, of an inoperable blood clot on March 17 in Louisville, Ky.
Clay, the son of an Atlanta eye surgeon, Clay grew up in Atlanta, and gained a bachelor's degree from Emory University and a master's degree from Columbia University in New York. After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II (and receiving the Purple Heart for a shell-fragment wound at the Italian battlefield of Anzio), he joined the Louisville Courier-Journal as the real-estate editor and the urban-affairs editor until 1966.
Clay also authored numerous articles for other publications, coining the phrase “new urbanist” for a 1959 article in Horizon.
Clay also began as editor-in-chief for the then-quarterly Landscape Architecture in 1960, continuing in the position until 1984. Clay considerably expanded the scope, reach and influence of the magazine and confronted substantive issues faced by the landscape-architecture profession.
Other changes included changing publication from quarterly to six times a year (now published monthly as Landscape Architecture Magazine) and spinning off Garden Design as a separate magazine in 1982.
Landscape architects wrote most of the articles under Clay’s tenure. The publication became the first professional journal to feature Ian McHarg’s work on ecological planning.
Clay’s most-public role came in chairing the group that, in May 1981, unanimously selected Maya Lin’s design from 1,241 entries for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Clay defended the choice in the face of some opposition, including the refusal of then-Interior Secretary James Watt to issue a building permit.
He also chaired the selection committee for the May 4 Memorial at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, and was a design juror for the Patriots Peace Memorial in Louisville.
In 1991, Clay began offering regular commentaries on Louisville’s public-radio station under the title Crossing the American Grain. He also published a collection of essays under the same title in 2003.
For his extraordinary contributions to the landscape architecture profession, Clay was honored several times by the American Society of Landscape Architects, including the Olmstead Medal in 1999, honorary membership in 2006 and the Bradford Williams Medal in 2006.
Clay is survived by his spouse, architect and planner Judith McCandless and sons Grady Clay, Ted Clay and Peter Clay. A memorial service will be held tomorrow in Louisville; the body was donated to the University of Louisville.