By Paul Scott Abbott, AJOT

Delegates to the 96th annual convention of the American Association of Port Authorities had lots to celebrate last week ’ including the 40-year career of longtime Virginia port leader J. Robert ‘Bobby’ Bray and the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown.

In addition to carrying out an ambitious business program, the gathering of more than 500 Western Hemisphere port leaders took time to honor Bray and to relive the discovery of the New World with a visit to the Jamestown Settlement.

As the convention, hosted Sept. 30-Oct. 4 in Norfolk by the Virginia Port Authority, held its Oct. 2 opening ceremonies, one of the first orders of business was to honor Bray with an AAPA distinguished service award.

Bray retired in March from the role of VPA Executive Director, becoming Executive Director Emeritus as he was succeeded by Jerry A. Bridges. Bray began his VPA career in 1967 as General Counsel and was appointed Executive Director in 1978.

By the completion of the convention, two other longtime North American port executives who had served stints as AAPA chairman also were bestowed with AAPA distinguished service awards: Gary Failor, who retired in late 2006 from his role as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority; and Dominic J. Taddeo, soon to retire from a similar dual position at the Montreal Port Authority.

Recipients of the distinguished service award are selected by AAPA’s executive committee in recognition of dedicated efforts on behalf of all ports in the Western Hemisphere and the enrichment of the maritime and port industries.

In presenting the award to Bray, AAPA President Kurt J. Nagle said Bray is ‘universally liked, respected and admired throughout the port industry for his vision, integrity and professionalism, and for simply being a truly nice person. He is the poster child for the true Southern gentleman,’ Nagle added.

‘It was his vision and leadership that resulted in the unification of the public ports in the area, massive investments in modern marine terminal infrastructure, deepening of the port’s channel to 50 feet and the innovative creation of an inland port 200 miles from the seaport,’ Nagle said of Bray.

‘It is most appropriate that we have the opportunity to present this award today, here in Norfolk, in the shadow of the port whose growth owes so much to his leadership, and at the opening ceremony for the convention he worked so hard to have here during the quadcentennial celebration of Jamestown,’ Nagle concluded.