William Darrell "Billy" Mays, Jr. (July 20, 1958 – June 28, 2009) was an American television direct-response advertisement salesperson most notable for promoting OxiClean, Orange Glo, and other cleaning, home-based, and maintenance products. His distinctive beard and impassioned sales pitches made him a recognized television presence in the United States and Canada.
Mays was born in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, and began his career as salesman on the Atlantic City boardwalk. He traveled across the United States for 12 years, selling various items before he was hired to sell OxiClean and other products on the Home Shopping Network. His success as a TV pitchman led him to found Mays Promotions, Inc. On April 15, 2009, the Discovery Channel began airing PitchMen, a documentary series that featured Mays. On the morning of June 28, 2009, Mays's wife found him dead in his home.
Mays was found unresponsive by his wife in his Tampa, Florida, home on the morning of June 28, 2009. He was pronounced dead at 7:45 am, appearing to have died sometime overnight. The Associated Press reported that there were no indications that the house had been broken into, and that police did not suspect foul play. Initially, there was wrong speculation that he had a head injury after he was struck on the head by luggage after an airline landing mishap where tires blew out.
After an initial autopsy on Mays's body on June 29, Dr. Vernard Adams, the Hillsborough County, Florida medical examiner, stated that Mays suffered from hypertensive heart disease and that heart disease was the likely cause of his death. According to a toxicology report released August 7, 2009, heart disease was the "primary cause of death" and cocaine was listed as a "contributory cause of death." In response to the release of the toxicology report, the Mays family issued a press release stating, "We are extremely disappointed by the press release released by the Hillsborough County medical examiner's office. We believe it contains speculative conclusions that are frankly unnecessary and tend to obscure the conclusion that Billy suffered from chronic, untreated hypertension..." and said in the release that they were considering "an independent evaluation of the autopsy results".
The medical examiner "concluded that cocaine use caused or contributed to the development of his heart disease, and thereby contributed to his death," the office said in a press release. The office said Mays last used cocaine in the few days before his death but was not under the influence of the drug when he died. Hillsborough County spokeswoman Lori Hudson said nothing in the toxicology report indicated the frequency of Mays's cocaine use. Cocaine can raise the arterial blood pressure, directly cause thickening of the left wall of the ventricle and accelerate the formation of atherosclerosis in the coronary arteries, the release said. However, in October 2009, the results of a second medical examination, commissioned by Mays' family, concluded that "cocaine was not a significant contributing factor" to his death.
Longtime friend and colleague A.J. Khubani, founder and CEO of the "As Seen on TV" product company Telebrands, said Mays never exhibited any signs of drug use and was always prepared for his many commercial shoots. "I'm just shocked," Khubani said. "He was the model of a responsible citizen."
According to subsequent news reports the toxicology tests also showed levels of painkillers hydrocodone, oxycodone and tramadol, as well as anti-anxiety drugs alprazolam and diazepam. Mays had suffered hip problems and was scheduled for hip replacement surgery the day after he was found dead.
Mays's funeral was held on July 3, 2009 in his hometown of McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania. The pallbearers for the funeral wore blue shirts and khaki pants at the funeral, much like Mays wore when he advertised his products. According to KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh, he was buried wearing a shirt with the OxiClean logo on it.