ATCHISON, KANSAS, U.S. — Cloud L. (Bud) Cray Jr., a longtime leader at MGP Ingredients, Inc., passed away on Feb. 27. He was 96 years old.

A native of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, U.S., Cray received a degree in chemical engineering from the Case Institute of Technology in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. Following his graduation, Cray went to work for the Dow Chemical Corp. In 1944, he was drafted into the U.S. Army. Following his honorable discharge in 1946, he returned to Dow.

Cray joined MGPI (then known as Midwest Grain Processors) in 1947. Cray’s father, Cloud L. Cray Sr., had founded MGPI in 1941. The younger Cray worked in several management positions until his promotion to president in 1962. He would serve as president until 1980, at which point he was elevated to chairman and chief executive officer. He would remain CEO. until 1988 and chairman until 2005.

In 2014, Cray again took over the title of chairman after a lengthy proxy battle between members of the Cray family and MGPI management at the time. Citing “a growing concern with the lack of profitable growth, deterioration in the corporate culture, efforts to sell certain parts of the company’s business, efforts to amend the bylaws that would limit accountability to shareholders and increase the power of the chief executive officer, and the level of compensation paid to the chairman of the board of directors and the CEO of the company,” Cray and his daughter, Karen Seaberg (who is currently chairman of MGPI), refused to attend an annual meeting and pushed for the removal of Tim Newkirk as CEO.

After Newkirk was terminated as CEO, Cray became chairman. He was named chairman emeritus following his retirement as a director in August 2015.

“Mr. Cray helped guide the transformation of MGP from an industrial alcohol manufacturer to a leading maker of premium distilled spirits and specialty wheat proteins and starches,” MGPI said. “As importantly, Mr. Cray was a generous resident of our headquarters community of Atchison, Kansas, where he provided countless resources to help make Atchison a better place. We extend our deepest sympathy to his daughter, MGP chairman of the board Karen Seaberg, and the entire Cray family.”