Raymond L. Watson was born on October 4, 1926, in Seattle, Washington. After moving to Oakland, California, in 1934, Ray was raised by his grandmother, spending his summers at the state beaches and parks where his father worked as a carpenter. After a short stint in the United States Army Air Forces Cadet Training Program toward the end of World War II, Ray enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley, receiving his B.A. in 1951 and a master's degree in 1953, both in architecture.
Wasting no time getting started on a career that would help change the face of urban planning and development, Ray's first job was a planning a civic center for the city of Stockton. He left Northern California in 1960 to join the Irvine Company in Orange County, enticed by the company's 90,000 acres of undeveloped land.
"At that time," Ray recalled, "there was a spirit within the Irvine Company. We had a blank paper for our creative juices and our plans could go from this blank page to the ground. There is that same spirit in Disney."