Charles Henry Ray was born in Norwich, New York, in 1821. He moved to Springfield, Illinois, where he edited a temperance newspaper, before working on the Jeffersonian.
A strong opponent of slavery, Ray moved to Chicago and in 1855 joined with Joseph Medill to purchase the Chigago Tribune. A founder member of the Republican Party in Illinois, Ray supported Abraham Lincoln in the 1860 presidential election.
A member of the group known as the Radical Republicans, Ray joined Joseph Medill in criticising Lincoln's decision to appoint conservatives such as Simon Cameron (Secretary of War), Gideon Welles (Secretary of the Navy), Edward Bates (Attorney General), and Montgomery Blair (Postmaster General) to the Cabinet. Charles Henry Ray died in 1870.